Monique Manzo is the founder of the Miss Curvy U.S. pageant, started in Nevada in 2015. The pageant, which is open to women who wear a size eight or larger, will be held at 5 p.m. on Nov. 12 at the Eldorado—with standard competition categories, including interview, swimsuit, evening wear, talent and others. Tickets are available through the pageant’s website, misscurvyus.com. The pageant is exclusive to Nevada this year, but Manzo hopes to include all 50 states in 2017.

Tell me a little bit more about how the pageant works.

It’s just like every other pageant. The difference is that we truly embrace the curvy body, and we want to showcase, basically, that women should be proud of their curves and flaunt them. They shouldn’t have to feel that they need to have a six-pack and have a two-piece on for them to be proud onstage.

Talk to me about the purpose of the pageant.

To me, the purpose of the pageant is to promote body positivity and overall women empowerment. I feel that women, especially today, have those wonders of, “Am I pretty? … I don’t look like her in the magazine. Or I’m not the typical size to have model work.” … So I feel that having this pageant is … almost like a groundbreaking experience for women to kind of have in their lives to get them to the next point—whether they want to take this and become a plus-size model or … take this to just build their self confidence.

How many people will be competing this year?

We … have 10 candidates this year. Last year we had 12. We always start out with a lot of candidates, and then they start to kind of fade away. And I feel that maybe, for some … they’re not ready to go in a swimsuit onstage or things like that. But what we love about this is that the people who approached it last year and didn’t commit … they committed this year.

What do you see as the future of the pageant?

I definitely see this becoming something. I absolutely want this to make a statement and to venture out nationally. … So, we are … in the works right now of starting a board. We do want this to become a non-profit organization. … And, right now, the way we award our prizes—last year’s prizes as an example—we stated that the winners would receive $500 in scholarship funding toward any educational expenses. So it wouldn’t have to just go for college. They can go ahead and take courses … for their career paths.

What else should people know?

We’re super big on community service. … Last year we had our girls volunteer at every establishment [that sponsored them]. … Another thing is that our pageant system has a “Mrs.” and a “Miss.” … You can have children [and compete]. … We don’t shun upon it like other organizations do. For example, there’s a national organization that you cannot have children, and you have to be under the age of 24.

Is there an age limit with Miss Curvy?

No—just 18 and up.

Are the ladies who are competing often first-time pageant entrants?

Absolutely. … I want to say maybe 90 percent of them don’t have any pageant background. … We offer once-a-week training with them—with workshops on how to walk properly … in each category, how to speak, how to nail the perfect interview. We train them on different poses. We do give them photo shoots that they have to attend. And we prep them for that too.