Member of the Month

Member of the Month: Meet Serena Terzic

Photo provided by Serena Terzic

Serena Terzic wanted to do something special to ring in her 50th birthday. But what would it be?

She and her husband already travel quite a bit. And Serena suspected her spouse wouldn’t be the type to throw her an over-the-top bash – they’ve only been married a few years, and her husband doesn’t know as many people around town – so the “big party” option felt unlikely, as well.

Serena got to thinking: She had participated in a pageant when she was a teenager, and she enjoyed the experience. Would it be possible to find something comparable, even as an adult on the verge of a landmark birthday?

Enter: The Miss South Carolina Plus America Pageant. It looked and sounded perfect: Just what Serena was seeking out.

The pageant’s website reads, in part, “We are committed to breaking stigmas and empowering full-figured women. Our sisterhood of bold and courageous women is inspiring and elevating women worldwide.”

Serena loved the sound of that. Furthermore, contestants all represent a cause that is near and dear to their hearts.

“I wanted to give back to my community and celebrate myself,” Serena said. “When I learned about a plus-size pageant with a ‘Mrs.’ division, I was excited.”

In a way, she’s coming full circle – returning to the pageant scene, this time as a more confident version of herself. Earlier in life, when Serena dabbled in pageants, she was only 15 years old, and an impressionable freshman in high school.

“I had always wanted to be in a pageant, but I was plus-size,” Serena said. “I wanted to model when I was younger. My mom actually took me to a local modeling school. We went to an interview and everything, and they looked at me and said, ‘There’s no need for plus-size models.’ This was over 30 years ago, but it kind of devastated me. I always thought pretty highly of myself, but it was really hard (to hear that). I’ve always been overweight. Even when I was a size 12, I was still overweight.”

These days, it’s almost hard to believe that anything could shake Serena’s confidence. She’s personable, animated, and a captivating storyteller, with an endearing laugh and eyes that twinkle when she smiles. It’s easy to see why she’d make a fantastic pageant contestant.

And her platform is one that most, if not all, TOPS members can most certainly relate to: My Day One.

“Today is my Day 275,” Serena said back in mid-January. “But I started this journey with a ‘My Day One,’ and it all goes back to TOPS.”

In TOPS terms, My Day One — for those who might need a refresher or who are entirely unfamiliar — is a quick-start guide for healthy living. It’s all about setting goals, managing stress, and of course, creating healthy meals. It’s a short publication that’s provided to all new members (and is available in the TOPS Store, if anyone would like another copy).

So, how did Serena get here? How did she latch onto the idea of taking My Day One and using it as her inspiration — and sharing her own take on MD1 with the masses?

Let’s rewind.

At State Recognition Days, or SRD, last year in South Carolina, Serena left with a bounce in her step. She felt inspired and reinvigorated.

“That’s what SRD is all about – getting that ‘spark’ back,” Serena said. “It’s this idea of being able to start fresh. SRD really did it for me.”

A week earlier, she had just weighed in at the highest she’d ever been, while with TOPS.

“I was still happy!” Serena said with a laugh. “I’m remarried. Being in love is wonderful. My husband loves me just the way I am. But I knew something had to change.”

Serena realized she had to get healthier. It wasn’t even the “losing weight” part that felt daunting. Cleaning up her act, she acknowledged, would be a major personal adjustment.

“I decided to start (my own version of) My Day One. I decided to put myself out there.”

As part of that process, Serena started making and posting YouTube videos every single day. For the first 30 days, she opened herself up to the internet, and she tapped into her vulnerability — talking about how she was feeling, what she was doing and more.

Serena wasn’t, and still isn’t, following any particular diet, by the way.

In fact, she doesn’t even like the word “diet.”

“I’m trying to find a new way of life, is what I’m doing,” Serena said. “And it’s working!”

Photo provided by Serena Terzic

She knew she needed to hit that so-called reset button on her life. Serena started by eating a small meal every two hours, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, taking in 300 calories at a time.

She was confident she’d lose weight. Sure enough, the pounds started to melt away.

Serena said she considers herself a very active person, but she didn’t add any purposeful exercise to her routine.

As of our interview, about one month ago, Serena had lost 39 pounds.

She’s a little more flexible with her meal-planning these days, and she’s especially proud to have maintained her weight loss through the holiday season.

Serena has continued to make YouTube videos and even TikToks – as just another way to share her platform.

“And it goes beyond just getting healthy – because when you want to start something or make a change in your life, you have to start with a Day One,” Serena said. “It doesn’t matter what it is. If you want to start exercising, quit smoking, slow down on your drinking, get out of an abusive relationship … it starts with that choice to START. That’s what I’m encouraging now. Men, women, kids, teenagers – whoever will listen to me! – just make that first step and start. Everyone says, ‘I’m going to start on Monday.’ Or they make it a New Year’s resolution. But I want you to take that first step, today.”

The best daughter

If there’s anything else TOPS members would appreciate about Serena, it’s that she’s devoted – to the organization, her chapter and her family.

Serena first joined TOPS about 28 years ago. She was very involved at first.

But like many members, she navigated some major life changes, as the years ticked by. Serena got busy raising her four children, she moved, and life eventually “nudged” TOPS to the side.

At some point, Serena stepped away from TOPS, just because it was already such a struggle to balance the kids’ sports, extracurriculars, church activities and more.

But then everything shifted when Serena’s mother got sick. Serena remembered her mom introducing her to TOPS in the first place, all those years earlier, and she knew how much her mother loved the organization.

Serena said her mom was still attending meetings every week, even ill, but usually, she just weighed in and left. That made Serena think: She had been a chapter leader before, and was well-versed in how to run a TOPS meeting.

She wanted more for her mother, so she decided to start a chapter at her mom’s house, so that way, Serena’s mother could participate fully. After all, her mom was on the brink of earning KOPS status — a huge accomplishment.

“I wanted her to be able to enjoy everything … all of it,” Serena recalled with a smile.

Although Serena’s mother died about two years ago, Serena spoke so fondly of those years spent with her – attending IRD together at Disney World, her mom eventually becoming a long-awaited KOPS, and more.

In fact, the chapter still meets at Serena’s mother’s house today. Serena’s dad is still living there, and he doesn’t mind; it’s just worked out over the years as a convenient arrangement for everyone involved.

Serena soaked in an extra eight years with her mom, after that initial illness, and it’s clear that Serena cherishes the rich memories.

For anyone who happens to be in the area or who’s familiar with South Carolina specifics, Serena is representing Berkeley County in the event. The pageant is set for April 27 in Sumter, S.C. The South Carolina Plus America Pageant is an official preliminary pageant to the Miss Plus America Pageant, meaning the winners from each division will advance to the national competition.

To participate in People’s Choice Voting, which anyone can do, scroll to the blue box and click “Log In to Vote.” The site will then ask your permission to use your Facebook login to cast one free daily vote. Voting continues every day until April 7.

You can also follow Serena’s journey on Facebook here. She has a Facebook fan page, as well.

From all of us here at Headquarters … we wish Serena nothing but the best! Cheers to everyone and your respective “day ones.”

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