PERHAM, Minn. — A Perham woman won her division in a pageant with competitors from across the world.

Johnnie Barthel, 64, traveled from Perham to Myrtle Beach, S.C., in June to compete in Today's International 2021 Pageant. She competed in the Golden Division, for people ages 60 and up. This pageant describes itself as all-inclusive and faith-based.

Each competitor chooses a specific platform, and Barthel chose domestic violence. This issue is very close to home for her, as it has affected her family.

"I just want people to know that there's a lot of people out there who assume that just because someone isn't being hit doesn't mean they're not being abused," she said. "Love shouldn't hurt. You're not someone's punching bag."

Barthel has helped several people in Perham escape domestic abuse situations. She encourages anyone in an abusive situation to get help by going to a police officer, a shelter or even calling her. "You're not alone," she said.

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Helping people in abusive situations isn't the only way Barthel has done good in her community. Today's International World is based on volunteering on top of its faith aspect. As part of the competition, competitors needed to make posts on Facebook and in other places to show they were volunteering regularly and promoting their platforms.

Barthel also had to go through a 5- to 7-minute interview where judges asked her specifically about her platform and why she chose this pageant over others. She said she specifically chose this one based on her belief in the Lord.

Along with volunteering and the interview, participants in the pageant competed in multiple different categories: platform presentation, fashion wear, evening gown, top model, spokesmodel, talent and fitness/swimsuit competition.

The competition promotes body positivity of people of all sizes because they believe, as the pageant's website says, "(real) beauty emanates from the heart with intelligence, empowerment, high standards and love as our guide."

Johnnie Barthel competes in Today's International World. (Submitted by Today's International World)
Johnnie Barthel competes in Today's International World. (Submitted by Today's International World)

While this was Barthel's first time winning her Division in a pageant, this wasn't her first competition. She's been in other pageants before, but she prefers Today's International World.

"Everybody is helping everybody," Barthel said. "Nobody is backstabbing other people. Everyone wants you to win as much as you want to win."

This was Barthel's third year competing in Today's International World. In her second year, she won the ambassador award and the congeniality award. This third year, she won the Golden Division.

"I don't really think winning has sunk in just yet," Barthel said. "(The pageant) was all day long. I was very tired and very hungry, so when it was over, I went to bed… It will probably sink in when I speak on domestic violence and wear the crown."

If you or someone you know is struggling with domestic violence, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. You can also text "START" to them at 88788.