05 Apr Brains, Beauty and Heart: An Interview with Texas’ Own Spruce Dickerson
What do you get when you mix a busy coffee shop in the middle of Downtown Austin and a couple of hours with a former beauty queen? For me, it was an unforgettable sit down with Austin’s own Spruce Dickerson. With a thousand kilowatt smile and a name so catchy that seems like taken out of a good ol’ western movie, Spruce shared her tale of overcoming adversity and fighting hard to fulfill one’s dreams.
After clinching the Miss America Plus Elite title back in 2011, Dickerson has, as she describes it, “sprung from that great springboard” that pageantry offered, onto bigger and better things. She has found a strong voice for advocacy deep within herself and has ventured into motivational speaking. As she let me know, her purpose in life is to motivate women to love themselves and to acknowledge their own worth and beauty – inside and out. Spruce is a dedicated model, philanthropist and actress with personality for days. I had the chance to visit with a delightful, highly contagious character, full of wisdom and depth. Spruce is no stranger to hardship, but she has not let personal stumbles and tragedy put out the great fire within her. Instead, she has channeled all those experiences into long-lasting lessons and she tries hard to transmit them to women who need to “wake up, start making what seem like tough choices and decide to LIVE!” For instance, she has started training other aspiring beauty queens and already scored a victory with her very first protégé.
Full-figured Women in a Size ‘0’ Fashion Scene:
On the topic of social stereotypes on beauty and thinness, Spruce had some very interesting things to share. She firmly believes that Americans need to break down that wall and “stop referring to curvy women as plus-size models. Why not just use the word ‘model’? Why the need for the distinction?” While she is grateful for gigs in runways and editorial shoots reserved for curved beauties, she seeks integration in the industry. “I’m not opposed to being a model in the full-figure industry and I welcome those opportunities; I simply want to be a model for ALL women. I don’t want to conform to society’s ideal of beauty, but instead, to be a rebel-of-sorts, pushing societal boundaries”. Spruce’s main goal with modeling is to bring awareness of the contribution, worth and beauty of all women, regardless of size. Meanwhile, she is thrilled to witness the emergence and popularity of artists like Melissa McCarthy, Adele, Lena Dunham and other headline-making full-figured girls in music, television, and film. She applauds the fun they’re having and the statements they make through their work.
Seeking wisdom in God and encouraging others to find their own drive-force, she also lets us know that giving to others is a huge part of her life. Spruce is undeniably committed to volunteerism and has her fair share of charitable endeavors, including volunteer work with Meals on Wheels, the Texas State Independent Living Council, SafePlace (a local domestic abuse shelter), as well as her involvement with the Exchange Club of Austin and many other charitable organizations. She’s also helped her community by tutoring for local literacy programs, joining Citizens on Patrol (working together with the Austin Police Department) and getting involved with other neighborhood safety initiatives.
Africa is in my heart:
In 2012, Spruce decided to take her philanthropic mission a step further by founding Flip Flop to Nigeria, a simple yet very emotional project that provides shoe donations to impoverished African children and families. The premise, as Spruce explained, is quite basic: “I was at the dollar store and stumbled upon a pair of flip flops, and the light in my head sort of switched on!
That simple moment, that random instance made me realize that as Americans, we can afford so many luxuries that we take for granted every day; I mean, some people all over the world have to walk miles just to get clean water without even a pair of soles on their feet! I live in a place where you can get a pair of shoes for $1! I need to share this with those less fortunate.” With Flip Flops to Nigeria, anyone can donate any new pair of flip-flops and drop them off at one of Spruce’s collection barrels throughout the city. After the collection campaign is done, each pair is packaged with a special note and a picture, dedicated to someone special in Nigeria. She trusts she’ll break her record of 937 pairs for last year, so be sure to donate your pair!
After being featured in magazines, press and numerous fashion shows, (as well as becoming the first full-figured model to walk the Austin Fashion Week Awards Night runway), Spruce is just getting started. She has booked several speaking engagements and fashion shows, and is currently in the process of rebranding herself by leaving behind the sash and crown to make way for the entrepreneur and communicator that continues to grow inside her.
This interview was originally published in the April 2014 Issue of VETTA Magazine.