People / Spotlight on achievers : Mrs. Orange County Puts Children First

Brenda Sessum, Mrs. Orange County International, will compete in San Diego this weekend for the Mrs. California International title.

The contest will require her to wear and model an evening gown and aerobic wear, in addition to interviewing with judges.

But Sessum, 40, says she is not in the contest for its glamour or the celebrity status it may bring. Instead, she is an advocate for stay-at-home moms and strong families.

“I want to encourage women who have decided to stay home with their children as I did,” Sessum said. “We are a minority, but our children will reap benefits their entire lives from a mom who has committed herself to being there for them.”


A mother of two school-age children, Sessum is a former nurse who also worked as a chaplain for hospital patients and a volunteer counselor for female inmates at Chino state prison. Her husband, Jay, is an orchestra leader and musician.

“I’ve always been interested in volunteer work,” she said.

Sessum, a 15-year Irvine resident, is a longtime school volunteer, a former girls’ softball coach and the current president of the University High School music boosters club. She also helps with fund-raising projects for community organizations.

The recent Mrs. Orange County International competition was the first time she had entered a pageant.

“I was impressed because this is not a beauty pageant,” Sessum said. “It deals with things that are deeper, such as marriage, family and community service. I didn’t expect to actually win. So when it happened, it just kind of took me by surprise.”