When Brita Nowak, the winner of the 2016 Overdrive’s Most Beautiful contest, first saw the poster of herself gracing the July cover of Overdrive, she cracked a huge smile while also blinking back tears.
She had arrived at The Great American Trucking Show in Dallas, Texas, and was on her way to the show floor when she was asked to pose in front of the photo taken a few months ago. Those few months were part of a painful new journey for the vivacious owner of BratCat Express, located in Jupiter, Florida. Shortly after the summer cover photo shoot, she found out she had breast cancer and underwent a double-mastectomy. She also chose to not get reconstructive surgery, a decision she’s confident is the best one for her. “These breasts served their purpose already. What do I need them for now?” she says with a laugh.
In spite of the ordeal, she never considered not attending the expenses-paid trip to GATS that she had won. “The timing of winning this contest was one of the things that kept my spirits up and helped push me through the recovery process,” she says. She gives credit to her family and especially her boyfriend, Nelson Karakunnel, for their unwavering support. The physical, emotional and financial fall-out would have dampened the most optimistic spirit but Nowak plans to get right back into trucking. “It’s what I love to do, so that’s what I’m going to keep on doing.”
Nowak charmed everyone with her frankness about her breast cancer journey and her passion for all things trucking. She was treated to a professional hair and make-up session and then on to a photo session in front of a Pride & Polish National Championship truck. A crowd gathered to admire Nowak as she posed and smiled alongside Bob Harley’s purple, 1972 Peterbilt named “Bad Attitude.”
Next came a whirlwind of giving interviews, signing autographs and meeting show attendees at the Overdrive booth. Thursday night she was introduced by Joanne Fatta, last year’s Overdrive’s Most Beautiful winner on the Red-Eye Radio stage she was presented with roses, gifts and a trophy. Friday she cheered on the singer-songwriters entered in Overdrive-Red Eye Radio’s Trucker Talent Search and then attended the Tony Justice and John Michael Montgomery concert. On Saturday, Nowak, along with Liberty Fry, one of the top three Most Beautiful winners, presented trophies at the Pride & Polish awards ceremony.
“It was a fantastic experience. We had so much fun and loved meeting everyone. It made me realize how proud I am to belong to this industry,” Nowak says.
See more stories on Brita below, from prior Overdrive reporting: