She began the evening with a story about a “Little Bear” DVD and ended it with an audience in tears. Alexandra Rosas arrived at the first-ever Madison Moth StorySLAM a seasoned storyteller, and ended up winning the entire event.

From its start in 1997, The Moth has presented over 450 shows per year around the country and abroad. The Moth Radio Hour airs on over 400 public radio stations across America and its podcast boasts more than 30 million plays a year. All stories are all told live and without notes.

Though Feb. 15 was Madison’s first StorySLAM, it was not so for Rosas. Having participated in the Milwaukee Moth numerous times, she takes every opportunity she receives to tell a story.

“I just love what storytelling does,” Rosas said. “It just makes you feel like you’re not alone and you’re a part of something.”

When Rosas heard that this particular StorySLAM’s theme was “Love Hurts,” she knew needed to bring into the light the one person she loved most — her mother. From the moment she faced the crowd, it was clear she didn’t just want to tell her story — she needed to tell it.

Rosas once read an article that explained how our parents’ experiences are engrained in our own DNA, but she believed the reverse was true as well. Following the death of her mother, Rosas believed the love she gave to her own children bounced back to their late grandmother.

“I realized when I read that article that, if she is in my DNA, then I must be in hers,” Rosas said. “Together, she can be a part of this whole dream she could have had if it wasn’t for life twisting the other way for her.”

Rosas’ mother was a Colombian immigrant who feared deportation the most. As a single mother with six kids, she worked countless jobs to give her children a comfortable life and to stay in the country.

Though Rosas adored her mother, she was never home. As a result, Rosas did not have a model of how to mother her own children. She, however, sought inspiration through a lowly “Little Bear” DVD, an animated show, and would play it for her children.

“Every day, whatever Little Bear’s mother did with Little Bear, I would do that same thing with my three boys,” Rosas said. “If Little Bear played in the woods, we would play in the woods. If Little Bear had a birthday cake party, we would have a birthday cake party. My mom and I both needed Little Bear to teach us what to do.”

Despite the family’s struggle, Rosas can attribute her happiness to her mother’s tireless work to provide for her family — and is now able to understand her mother’s trial to be fully present with her children. With this, Rosas ended her story with, “love may hurt, but love also heals.”

Rosas’ win has fueled her fire to continue telling stories and experiencing the sacred storyteller-audience relationship The Moth provides.

“There is nothing like the sound of people listening to a story — it’s a different kind of a quiet,” Rosas said. “It is such an electrified energy. When you tell a story, they really want you to make it. They’re not looking for you to bomb. You look out and everyone is listening because they want to learn what you’ve learned.”