Ann Marie Reigrut is living proof that women don’t have to follow a single lane that was set by societal norms. Both a tomboy and a beauty queen, she is living proof that women can overcome stereotypes to succeed in anything they aspire to be.
Ann Marie is a prior United States Coast Guard Officer, an ExxonMobil Global Emergency Preparedness & Response Advisor, a mom, a wife, and United States of America's Mrs. Texas 2021. She exudes tenacity and ambition helped her achieve success in what seems like contrasting universes.
So how does someone go from trudging through shipyard tanks in steel-toed boots and coveralls to wearing a crown and sparkling gown on the pageant stage? Let's find out ...
Ann Marie has been a tomboy her whole life. As a girl, she was always playing outside in the country with her brothers, never afraid to get her hands dirty or take the lead. She loved riding motorcycles, even through the brutal Texas heat.
A scuba diving class in high school and an influential mentor led her to attend Texas A&M University at Galveston Maritime Academy, where she earned both her Bachelor and Master Degrees. There, she went through a program which eventually landed her in the officer candidate school and upon graduation she accepted an officer position with the United States Coast Guard - a post she held for 13 years.
Ann Marie started out as one of the only females working at a shipyard, crawling through ship tanks every day. Her hard work and tenacity paid off as she progressed to become a vessel manager at Deep Marine Technology managing offshore supply vessels that conducted deep sea diving and remote-operated vehicle work in the Gulf of Mexico. Ann Marie then transitioned to the American Bureau of Shipping, where she conducted third-party audits of shipping companies and vessels against international regulations.
Then in April, 2010 she received an urgent call that she'll never forget. Ann Marie was called to active duty and tasked with responding to a devastating accident on the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig, a disaster that became known as one of the largest environmental disasters in US history.
She was the first female Lieutenant Branch Director for the USCG at the cusp of the disaster and upon arriving at the scene she immediately took command of 40-50 Coast Guard personnel and nearly 800 contractors. Time was of the essence and she had to respond with lightning speed and expert precision.
She recalls, “It was extremely difficult, especially being a young officer. But fortunately, I had an incredible team working with me.” At one point during Ann Marie's disaster response engagement, the Commandant of the USCG came down to personally visit her and her team.
“For me that was a highlight of my USCG career. It was an honor to showcase to the Commandant the effort and hard work that my team was putting in, each and every single day of the response.”
Unfortunately, Ann Marie didn't just have to deal with the disaster itself. Being the lone woman in a male dominated environment, she faced instances of blatant sexism where her competency was questioned or undermined.
“Some of the hardest times were when I would come across people who did not hold women in high esteem. They would look at you and judge a book by its cover. I had to step up and prove that I was fully capable and qualified to do this job – that I am just as good as, if not better than the men standing next to me.”
After successfully completing the stressful mission on Deepwater Horizon, Ann Marie decided to take some much needed time off and shift her life's focus to be a mom.
“One night I was sitting there with my little girl and we happened to be watching a beauty pageant on TV. She looked at me and said 'Mommy, you can do that too, right?', so I replied, 'you know what kiddo, yes, yes I can.' After that, I decided to start competing in pageants, which was totally out of the norm, nothing like I had ever done before. But I wanted to showcase to my daughter, as well as to other young girls, that you can do anything you set your mind to. You can do everything that the boys can do and still be as feminine as you want.”
Ann Marie prepared, competed, and was eventually crowned Mrs. Texas United States 2017 and again as USOA Mrs. Texas in 2021. Today, in addition to her job at Exxon and her role as a mother and wife, she mentors young women through Big Brothers Big Sisters and as a Girl Scouts Troop leader. She wants to share her story to show young girls that:
“As a female you're not stuck in a box, nor do you have to meet anyone else's expectations, other than your own. Never let someone else define you, as you can do absolutely anything you set your mind to. Be the girl who just went for it.”
Ann Marie used to joke with her friends at the shipyard that she needed a pair of steel toed stilettos. When she found Xena Workwear, she didn't just find a shoe she always wanted, she discovered a company that embraces her badass values.
“From steel-toed boots to stilettos, it’s not the shoe that defines you, but the strong woman wearing them.”