‘A Texan can look like me’

Averie Danielle Bishop is a lawyer who graduated with two degrees from the Southern Methodist University. Photo: Averiebishop.com

By Gus Mercado

Filipino Americans in our state, especially in the Dallas Forth Worth Metroplex, brimmed with pride when our very own Averie Danielle Bishop won the Miss Texas crown on June 25th.

From North Texas to the Miss America stage in December, she made history as the first Asian American ever to win the title in the pageant’s 85-year history.

Averie put herself through college, earning two degrees from the Southern Methodist University, including a bachelor’s degree with double majors in Political Science and Human Rights, and a JD  law degree with a 3.9 GPA. She is a first-generation Filipino American, born to a Filipino immigrant mother Marevi Sabalilang and fourth generation Texan Danny Bishop. Her younger brother Teddy is in the U.S. Army.

Beneath all the success and praise that have come her way, she has humanitarian blood running in her veins. She and her mom created Tulong Foundation, providing education, livelihood and scholarships to poor children in their native village in Banga, South Cotabato, Philippines. Their foundation has supported 45 poor students including seven full scholars in different colleges in their province. With funding from SMU and some friends, she worked to build potable water systems for the community and their elementary schools.

She is the first Asian American to be crowned Miss Texas.

Her impressive credentials also include serving as legal intern for the president and vice president of SMU, addressing higher education policy in Third World countries, Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation Fellow, and Texas Women’s Museum “Woman of the Year” awardee

She was appointed by the Mayor of Dallas to the new Anti-Hate and Discrimination Advisory Council. In an impromptu interview, she said serving the community is her way of paying back, “growing up in very challenging circumstances with parents who sacrificed so much for me to become the force of nature that I am today.”

Averie spent a sometimes painful childhood in Prosper where she was confronted with bullies and hateful language.

“From the way I spoke, the shape of my eyes, my flat nose, my upbringing, the adverse financial condition that I grew up in, sometimes the way my Mom spoke,” she recalled. Some people say rude things because they just don’t understand what they don’t know.” My mission as Miss Texas and as a person is to try to teach everyone in our state that a Texan can look like me and feel equal and welcome.”

Averie and mom Marevi Sabalilang founded Tulong Foundation providing scholarships to children in Banga, South Cotabato. Photos by Mel Krater

When she was Miss Dallas, before she became Miss Carrollton and went on to win as Miss Texas, we saw greatness in this articulate and down-to-earth young Filipina. At our last PACC Texas Awards Night, Consul Ethel Mercado and I honored her with our Founders’ Award as “Most Outstanding Young Leader in Texas.”

In addition to her amazing intellect and stunning beauty, she is also an excellent singer and dancer. Her stirring song from “Les Miserables” won her the Most Talented award in the preliminary round.

Explaining her wardrobe, she said:  “I know wearing this costume is not typical wardrobe at a pageant. But my choice was a reflection of how far I’ve come in life. I am proud to have worn hand-me-downs, thrifted clothing, and torn up shoes as a child. To me, this costume was not a costume. It is a celebration of the rags I have shed, thanks to the village and the people who have embraced me.”

The teary-eyed audience burst into applause.

Averie is looking forward to her very hectic duties as Miss Texas while preparing for the Miss America pageant in Connecticut in December.  

Gus Mercado is a business and civic leader in Dallas, Texas. He is a recipient of the Presidential Banaag Award for Outstanding Community Leadership, the Distinguished Service Award from the Mayor of Dallas and a three-time Jaycee of the Year awardee.

Leave a Reply