Lesha Wincher has a ready smile and speaks with charming alacrity. After graduating from Clear Brook High School in Friendswood in 2012, she entered the University of Houston, where she majored in Human Development and Family Studies. From 2013 to 2017, she was also a Houston Texans cheerleader.
When she graduated with her bachelor’s degree and completed her time as an NFL cheerleader, Wincher was ready for her next challenge. “I thought, ‘What will I do with all my time now?’ I’m the type of person who likes to be extremely busy,” she said.
She began HBU’s MSHRM (Master of Science in Human Resources Management) program in the fall of 2017, and started working as an HR manager for a medical billing and coding company. Wincher was drawn to the HR field for the opportunity it presented to help others.
“I never have a dull day or moment at work,” she said. “You’re not a counselor, but you’re there for your employees.”
Wincher chose HBU’s graduate program specifically for its high-care, small-group learning environment. “I wanted to be in a classroom where I could talk to my professor if I had a question,” she said. “For some reason, when I step on the HBU campus, I feel a peace, I feel at home, and all the professors are so accommodating.”
In the midst of her busy schedule, Wincher saw an advertisement for the Miss Houston competition. She had never competed in beauty pageants, but secured a coach and decided to give it a try. In the spring of 2018, she competed among 60 women, many of whom had years of experience in the industry.
“I thought, ‘Just because they’re more experienced than you doesn’t mean you can’t win.’ It’s honestly about having tunnel vision,” she said. “You can’t compare yourself to the person to the left or the right of you.”
At the Hilton Post Oak Hotel, Wincher went through an interview panel, swimsuit and evening gown competition, and found herself among the top three finalists. Then came the dreaded interview question that often makes or breaks candidates. Wincher took a risk on a controversial topic by giving a pro-Second Amendment answer. Her self-assurance paid off, and she was crowned “Miss Houston.”
“My heart fell to the floor,” she said. Since then, Wincher has served throughout Houston in her role, helping underprivileged Houstonians. “Houston is home for me,” she said. “I’ve been a lot of places in this country, but I always want to go back home. The people, diversity and culture we have here is unique. We have so much to offer and a lot of other cities don’t compare.”
Also in 2018, Wincher competed in the Miss Texas competition. Out of 84 women, Wincher was the second runner-up. “Here’s a girl who never thought she could do a pageant,” she said. “My takeaway is, if there’s something that anybody wants to do, just do it. It doesn’t matter if someone else has done if for six years, eight years … do what’s in your heart.”
Taking a mix of on-campus and online classes at HBU, Wincher is advancing her education and receiving benefits in her current job position at the same time. “I believe that education is one thing that no one can take away from you,” she said. “I just wrapped up a course on employment law and we actually had a situation at our office at the same time that related. I told our CEO, ‘Don’t panic.’ Everything I’m learning in my master’s degree – from legal issues to employee handbooks and policies – we’re using in real life.”
The lessons learned from her time as Miss Houston, and as a student and employee, are profound. “Be yourself,” she said. “People are going to like you for being authentic. You can be any color or any height. Just be you. If you have an idea, voice that idea.”
In the future, Wincher plans to earn a doctorate and become a CEO or company president. “Life is short and it’s not to be taken so seriously. Life is not guaranteed, so live your life in the moment,” she said. “Faith plays a huge role in my life; it’s something I live by. ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’ Without that, I am nothing.”