Saturday, August 31, 2013

One of My Favorite Healthy Recipes


The majority of the meals my family eats are recipes found on the American Heart Association website at heart.org. They have everything you can imagine and they‘re fun to make as a family! This is the recipe to one of my favorites. It’s a South Pacific Shrimp with Southeast Asian seasoning.

You’ll need:

1/3 cup “lite” coconut milk (see Cooking Tips)
2 serrano chiles or jalapeno peppers, preferably red, seeded and minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
2 teaspoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup lime juice
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 pound medium shrimp (30-40 per pound), peeled and deveined (see Cooking Tips)
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup diced seeded tomato
4 cups baby spinach

Start by combining the coconut milk, chiles, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, lime juice and brown sugar in a medium bowl. Add the shrimp and toss to coat. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 10 to 15 minutes, tossing occasionally. Drain well, reserving marinade.

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add shrimp and cook, turning once, until barely pink, about 30 seconds per side; transfer to a plate. Add tomato and spinach to the pan; cook, stirring, until the spinach starts to wilt, about 30 seconds. Add the reserved marinade; simmer until the sauce thickens slightly, about 2 minutes. Return the shrimp and any accumulated juices to the pan; heat through. Serve immediately.

Cooking Tips:
Freeze any leftover coconut milk or refrigerate it for several days; you can use it instead of broth or water to cook rice or enrich a curry or rice pudding.
Cooking with frozen shrimp: Individually quick-frozen shrimp, sold in resealable bags, are convenient to keep in your freezer. Thaw in a covered bowl in the refrigerator. If you're in a hurry, place shrimp in a colander under cold running water for about 5 minutes.

This is a great seafood main dish at only 176 calories per serving! I hope you’ll try this and many other recipes at the American Heart Association website. Enjoy!

Much love,

Haley Pontius

Friday, August 30, 2013

Volunteer of the Month – August 2013

I am so so so so so (did I mention SO) excited to announce my first “Miss International 2013’s Volunteer of the Month Award! (of course, formerly known as Miss New York International’s…)  August 2013’s winner is Linda Baker!

I met Linda Baker of Darien Center, NY at the New York Special Olympics State Championship.  I quickly realized that Linda was a selfless individual who truly had her heart and soul connected to this organization.  She says, “I am not sure if I chose [Special Olympics] or it chose me.  They athletes are incredibly welcoming and have such generous hearts.  All they want is to be accepted for who they are.  They want to be accepted for their abilities, not their disabilities…. Once I opened my heart and mind to them, I was hooked.” (well said!)

Linda has been a Law Enforcement Torch Run volunteer for 14 years and in 2011 was selected for the incredibly honorable role as New York’s representative to run the final leg in the Special Olympics WORLD GAMES in Greece!  (The Law Enforcement Torch Run is the largest grassroots fundraiser for the S.O. in the world and helps fund training, equipment, uniforms, transportation, etc. – Learn more at http://www.specialolympics.org/Sections/Donate/Special_Olympics_Torch_Run.aspx)

Linda personifies the versatility of today’s volunteer, participating in Polar Plunges (jumping into freeeeeeezing cold wate) and rappelling down a 26-story building to raise funds and awareness for Special Olympics!  She credits her volunteer spirit to her parents, who were actively involved in community and civic events.  In her spare time Linda is an avid runner and scrapbooker.  She has two sons, Ken and Mike, a daughter-in-law, Jessie, and her precious grandson, Silas.  Linda will receive a commemorative certificate and a $25 Visa Gift Card sponsored by VolunteerMatch.  Thank you for your inspiring service and dedication!

Linda presenting awards to athletes in 2011; At the World Games in Greece – Torch in hand; Rappelling down Seneca Niagara Casino

Are you or someone you know an outstanding volunteer?  Contact me at 2013missinternational@gmail.com for an official application!

Seek Happiness,

Jesse

Thursday, August 29, 2013

25 Things About Me!

1. I competed in my first pageant when I was three years old.

2. My favorite kind of movies are the sappy chick flicks that will make you cry! I recently watched one called Upside Down and it was an emotional rollercoaster. I loved it!

3. If I’m not wearing high heels then I’m barefoot!

4. I love to decorate for Christmas! This time of year brings me so much holiday cheer that I literally drape the inside of our house with colorful lights, silver garland, and huge wreaths. And don’t even get me started on the outside of our house!

5. I’m a tree hugger. I’m in love with nature itself so every time I see a clear-cut forest I almost start to cry!

6. I love to get things in the mail. No matter what it is, I get excited every time!

7. I try to live by the verse James 1:19 that says to “be quick to listen and slow to speak”. I have found that this is helpful in every area of life!

8. I am constantly doodling. Enough said.

9. Although I am seventeen, I have yet to get my driver’s license.

10. My best friend is my rat terrier who I named DeeOGee. Did you catch that? If you didn’t that’s okay. My dad didn’t get it until two years later!

11. When I was a little girl I played every sport known to man at some point or another. Basketball, baseball, soccer, you name it! Eventually I realized that pageantry was the perfect sport for me.

12. I love to take pictures. I’m always ready to strike a pose!

13. I am terrified of the dark. So much that I actually have to sleep with a lamp on in my room.

14. I am a huge animal lover. If it were my choice, I would take home every stray animal on the side of the road.

15. I love to play badminton with my friends. We can play a single game for hours!

16. When I was little I went to the extreme when I built sandcastles in my sandbox. My castles were huge and equipped with child-size tunnels that I would crawl through.

17. I have a purity ring that I wear everyday. It’s my promise to myself, my Lord and my future husband to stay pure till marriage.

18. The perfect way to spend a lazy day is to curl up in a blanket on the couch and watch a marathon of lifetime movies. The only way it could get any better is if it were raining and I had a cup of hot chocolate.

19. One of my favorite verses is Psalm 45:11. “The king is enthralled by your beauty; honor him, for he is your lord.”

20. When I was a little girl my mother would make me pancakes in the shape of teddy bears with chocolate chip eyes. I still believe this made them taste better!

21. One of my favorite things to do with my friends is make unique short films. We all dress up in costumes, play several characters, and direct it as a team. The best part is watching the final product and laughing till we cry!

22. I love to try new things and I’m up for anything!

23. I met my best friend in first grade when she dropped her pencil in class and while reaching down to pick it up noticed I had cool shoes. It was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

24. My favorite snack is hot chocolate and popcorn, separate and together.

25. I am the first Arkansas titleholder to win the International Pageant.

Haley Pontius

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Raiders of the Lost Art: Thank You Notes

I will admit, as a child writing thank you notes was the most difficult, boring, and tedious task ever!  I mean, as a seven year old it’s tough to believe that “Thank you for the Polly Pocket Mansion you gave to me for my birthday, I love it” is worth taking the time to write a notecard, looking up an address, finding a stamp, and snail mailing it to a friend or relative is really worth the effort.

However, as an adult I cannot send ENOUGH thank you notes: to friends, family, sponsors, etc.  In the digital age, words of appreciation in a tangible card handpicked by you speak volumes.  It’s all about the gesture!  Maya Angelou said, “People may not always remember what you say or do, but they will always remember how you made them feel”.   A follow-up note is a great way to ensure people always look back on your interactions fondly.

**No one is perfect!  I can’t even tell you the number of times I have written thank you notes and addressed the envelopes, only to find them between my car seat cushions or at the bottom of a tote months later… it happens, but if you are like me and your mind moves faster than you’d like it to sometimes, keep note cards with you so you can fill them out on-site for the person/people you’d like to thank so you don’t forget!

For titleholders it is imperative to thank you sponsors for many reasons: of course to show your gratitude, but also to help them keep a positive view of pageant contestants.  You want to keep the door open for the next woman who asks!  Have writers’ block?  Here’s something to get you started!

Sponsorship note example:
Dear Business or Individual,
“Thank you so much for your generous contribution towards my journey.  As I dedicate my year to promoting Volunteerism as Miss International 2013, your support will only help strengthen my message and reach.  I am so grateful for your partnership!” – It won’t hurt to include a signed autograph card if you have them!

I recently designed these custom note cards and had them made.  Find ones you love, you’ll be much more likely to want to send them out!

Seek Happiness,

Jesse

Monday, August 26, 2013

Social Media

Let me start by saying that social media and I are in a love/hate relationship. It has completely changed the way we communicate with each other. It’s a brilliant and easy way to connect with people from all walks of life and all over the world, but have we become too wrapped up in the online world?

I love my Instagram. I love to take pictures, look at pictures, and edit pictures so it’s by far my favorite social media network. If I let myself I could spend hours on this one site and never get bored. This is the down side to social media. Yes, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Tumblr and every other site out there are all wonderful assets to have, especially if you are involved within an organization, but we have to limit how long we are spending on these networks.

The online world isn’t real life. While it’s a great way to keep in touch with friends, family, and your community it simply isn’t real life. So many people have become impersonal when on the internet and often ponder saying or posting something that they would never say or do in the real world.

We live in a fast paced world where we immediately know when something has happened and we are constantly being hammered with new information. In this crazy mesh of ideas and news, we have to stay grounded.

As hard as this may sound, let’s set our phones down, log off the computers, and turn off the Tvs‘. Let’s talk with each other face to face! Let’s go outside and get active together! We are the only ones who can keep our bodies healthy so don’t be a couch potato!

With this said I challenge you to log off of this computer and go spend time with your family and friends. Go outside! Have fun! Live the healthy life you want to live!

Love,
Haley

More Than Just Talk...

Heading in to the office, crown and all!

This afternoon was spent at CASA Lake County.  I sat down with our Executive Director, Terri Zenner Greenberg; Dir of Communications and Development, Joanie Bayhack; and a few board members. It was the first time I had been to the office since becoming Mrs. International.  Although I normally would go it alone, I had my daughter with me.  It’s that time of year when summer camps are done, school has not started and sitters are on vacation.  Ali was a gem during the two hours of meetings and we were able to get a lot of work accomplished.

Some of my favorite people from CASA Lake County

You will often hear me say how much I love the enthusiasm everyone at CASA Lake County has for CASA!  The support they are offering me is having such a positive impact on my year as Mrs. International.  Today we discussed what’s been taking place with the program and we talked about what plans need to be made.  It was a great way to figure out how to most effectively help our Lake County office that has already offered so much to me personally and to the abused and neglected children we serve.

Be the change!

Amy Gregorio 
Your Mrs. International 2013
 www.CASALakeCounty.com

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Cinderella's Big Day

Some of my pageant family refers to me as a “Pageant Almanac”  - I am both proud and a little embarrassed to admit my real level of pageant enthusiasm.  I grew up in a neighborhood with very few children my age and none of my schoolmates within walking distance.  Because of this, lots of summer days were spent trying to find ways to keep myself occupied.  When I started to fall in love with pageants around the late 90s, I made it my mission to become an “expert”.  I had taped countless pageant telecasts and would actually analyze the winners, the runners-up, the finalists and what they had done to stand out.  As my pageant interest continued to grow, this “research” stemmed out to looking up wardrobe designers, gown collections, photographers (ahem, CLAY SPANN) that I could only dream I would someday work with.

I am a packrat – especially since I am still the same size I was in junior high (that’s not an exaggeration).  My pageant wardrobe has stood the test of time and I have without a doubt squeezed every dollar out of each purchase made over the years.  I have a red mermaid dress I bought on the sale rack in 2003 for $15… yes, one-five… that I wore for talent two separate years, a walk-on gown, my junior prom, borrowed by two separate people, and worn again recently for an appearance.  Would I have loved to buy a new dress for every occasion? ABSOLUTELY.  However, it just isn’t always possible.

For Miss International I increased my typical budget because I knew it would be my last “go round” and I was in a place financially to handle that responsibility.  That said, my budget was still incredibly modest and I did stick to it (thanks to the New York International sponsors and some thorough bargain shopping).  For the most part I refuse to even try on anything I know I can’t leave with…

Fast Forward… I am landing in Dothan, Alabama to work with Clay Spann -the very photographer and make-up artist I had dreamt of shooting with over a decade ago - and shop at The Competitive Image where, thanks to their incredibly generous sponsorship, I get to live that Cinderella experience of really being able to dress like that princess I always wanted to – without limiting myself or feeling like I was settling (Thank you, Joey Rutherford!).

Each day I am so humbled that this really is my life and that I truly do have a “team” of people that want me to have all of the tools I could possibly need to look and feel my absolute best.  It is a testament that dreams come true with a clear focus, hard work, and living by your own rules.  The experience was everything I could have imagined it would be and so much more.

Clay, Joey, and Ms. Terri made me feel like an absolute bombshell!  Looking around the studio walls, nerdy me was beyond starstruck to see all the faces of former queens and contestants that I had admired for so long – am I really a Clay Spann girl like all of them?!  The looks that Joey and Clay picked and accessorized for me were beyond my wildest imagination.  They are the gold standard!

Jesse Ladoue

Saturday, August 24, 2013

My First Photo Shoot


Just recently I had the honor of visiting Dothan, Alabama to have my official photographs taken for the International Pageant and I had the privilege of working with Clay Spann, Joey with Competitive Image, and of course, they’re right hand woman, Terri! It amazes me still when I think about how talented they are and how they have perfected what it is they do. So, I really must brag on them!

I really don’t know how Clay Spann does it, but somehow he captures the most breathtaking photos I have ever seen. With the supermodel hair and makeup he gave to me combined with the gowns and jewelry that the Competitive Image provided, I felt more beautiful than you can imagine!

And I must say The Competitive Image is full of stunning gowns and adorable dresses that not only catch your eye, but showcase the beauty of the girl in the gown. I am beyond excited that they are my sponsor!

 So, I can’t wait for you all to see the Clay Spann photographs or to wear my next gown from Competitive Image! It can’t come soon enough!

All my love,

Haley Rose Pontius


Friday, August 23, 2013

Tiara Magazine Interview

With Sherrie Gearheart post-interview

After our new Miss and Miss Teen International were crowned and pictures were taken, we three then went over to the hotel for interviews with Sherrie Gearheart.  I first met Sherrie the night I won Mrs. Illinois International. However, I was already aware of her many generous endeavors.  She is the creator of the Live Out Loud Charity which focuses on suicide prevention and awareness.  Sherrie also founded Tiara Magazine which celebrates us all and helps everyone love the skin they are in
.
Sherrie interviewed us for her Tiara Talk Show.  It was a chance to discuss pageant preps leading up to Mrs. International.  And it was also the perfect place to talk about upcoming platform plans.  I am not sure when those interviews will air.  However, her website has plenty to offer.  Thank you Sherrie for the chance to discuss CASA, Mrs. International and Go Red for Women!

Be the change!

Amy Gregorio
Your Mrs. International 2013

www.SherrieGearheart.com

Thursday, August 22, 2013

New York

“Dream like New York, as high as the skyline. Aim for the stars above those city lights…”

What can you even say about a place that you feel has given you everything? And is it weird to thank a place? In reality, the “place” does not dictate what happens there nor does it care how many miles you travel across it or even, how often. Despite the fact that New York does not “love” me the way I love New York, I am and always will be fiercely loyal and proud of where I have spread my roots.

I have found myself thinking multiple times just how lucky I am to live in New York and sometimes even feel bad for those that do not get to experience it (ethnocentrism at its finest!) - a natural wonder of the world, vast wine country, lush hilltops with stunning foliage, home to an Olympic trial location – Lake Placid, and home to what many consider the greatest city in the world “New York, NY”. Ok, my bias is showing…

What we can all learn from the New York culture… We have colorful characters everywhere you turn. As a New Yorker, you learn to just accept that we are all so different and celebrate that freedom of expression. In New York you can take risks without being afraid to be judged – it’s truly a place to explore who you are without fear.

New York themed songs are everywhere! Here’s a list of a few of my absolute favorites that can be found on my playlist to help get you in the Empire State spirit…

~New York, New York – Various Artists
(**Did you know that the Yankees play this song after every home game? The Frank Sinatra version after a victory and the Liza Minelli version after a loss)
~New York State of Mind – Billy Joel
~Dream Like New York – Tyrone Wells
~New York Groove - Hello
~Empire State of Mind – Jay-Z and Alicia Keys
~Empire State of Mind Part 2 – Alicia Keys
~On Broadway – Various Artists

Jesse Ladoue

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

The Natural State


I love Arkansas with all my heart.

I’ve lived my whole life in the countryside and I feel a special connection to all of the nature that surrounds me. It’s all so beautiful and peaceful, from the birds that sing in the morning to the frogs that croak at night. The way the sky looks when the sun sets to the crisp glow when it rises. The way the mountains turn every shade of orange, yellow and red in the fall to the vibrant greens of springs. Arkansas is simply beautiful and it’s beautiful all the time.

I took this photo out my back window this morning on my phone as I was writing to you! 

I personally believe that Arkansas is the most amazing state, without a doubt. It literally has everything! The state’s diverse geography ranges from the mountains of the Ozarks and Ouachita Mountains, to the densely forested land in the south known as the timberlands, to the eastern lowlands along the Mississippi River. People say that if a fence was built around Arkansas, the state would be completely self-sufficient simply because the regions and their resources were so diverse.

Just because I adore Arkansas, I want you to see more of it so here are quite a few photographs.





Whether you choose to spend your time enjoying the outdoors or the contemporary cityscapes it all takes full advantage of our state’s resources. You can go duck, deer or wild turkey hunting, shopping for antiques, fishing for trout or you might even go digging for diamonds at Crater of Diamonds State Park. Where it’s the only diamond-producing site in the world where the public can search and keep the diamonds they find! You can get away from it all in more than 2.9 million acres in three forests and journey one of 250 hiking trails that collectively stretch more than 1,500 miles.

Arkansas is well known for numerous well established businesses such as Wal-Mart founded by Sam Walton, Tyson Chicken, J. B Hunt and Dillard’s. It’s also the home of the well known country singer Johnny Cash and Former President Bill Clinton, actress Mary Steenburgen, and boxer Jermaine Taylor.

With all of the opportunities and places to discover there is no better place to visit than Arkansas. It’s simply beautiful and breathtaking and I hope you’ll come visit us.

Much love,

Haley Pontius

Sunday, August 18, 2013

A Meeting with Mac Duggal

With gown designer, Mac Duggal. His showroom is a piece of heaven!

With many events on the horizon, I need help with my wardrobe! My usual running pants and athletic tops just won't cut it;) Yes, I do already have many clothes for all types of events, but I want to represent Mrs. International to the best of my abilities and in all ways.  Luckily, the Competitive Image was able to step in and save me. They have impeccable taste and organized a meeting with the fabulous Mac Duggal. Mac is an Illinois-based, but universally known gown designer.

Chances are very good; you’ve seen many of his cocktail dresses and gowns even if you've never been to a pageant! Mac and his staff were in the midst of packing up their showroom and heading to Atlanta for a big showcase for buyers including Competitive Image. Yet, Antoinette gathered a few gowns which had yet to be packed for the trip. They are beautiful and not out until next spring!

Thank you to Joey Rutherford at the Competitive Image and to Mac Duggal and his staff for fitting me in to their hectic week. And I was so surprised when Mac himself asked if we could have a picture taken together. Of Course! Next time, I will bring my crown. I can’t wait to show off the wardrobe!

Amy Gregorio

Onward and Upward

It is difficult to qualify and quantify all of the plans and dreams I have for this year.  The root of it all is two-fold.  First, to spread the importance and the need for expansion of the volunteerism culture, and share the accessibility of service opportunities for anyone and everyone.  The second is to promote and strengthen the International Pageants’ reach and visibility.  I am proud of our system and want the world to know that this is the premier pageant for women with important causes and impactful voices.

August has been FULL of planning.  I’m working to lay the groundwork to visit 30+ US cities as part of my V for Volunteer Tour to meet with students nationwide, introducing them to the features and functionalities of VolunteerMatch.  Who knows, I just may be spotted in your neighborhood driving the “VolunteerMatch Mobile”!  I am so excited to share locations, dates, and events, but you’ll have to stay tuned for the big reveal!

In addition to this V for Volunteer travel, I will be making multiple other stops where I can hang up the crown and sash and really get my hands dirty.  As you know, I’ve already been an international volunteer in Kenya.  I am in discussions with several programs to facilitate group mission trips to developing nations and regions.

I can’t wait to use the strategy of engaging, educating, and empowering potential volunteers to help create a passion for service, and in turn countless lifelong volunteers.  Be a part of the global shift for greater good. You will be amazed at how quickly good intentions can become grand gestures when we are working together!

Love,

Jesse

My Goals

My platform is my life. It effects every choice that I make on a daily basis and has completely altered the way I view my health. Had I not even become Miss Teen Arkansas International I would still be working just as passionately as I am now.

Heart disease effects everyone, big or small, young or old, male or female. Whether or not we realize it, every one of us know someone who has been directly effected by it. Heart disease is all around us, we just don’t always see it. Nor do we see how easily it can often be prevented.

So, my mission has always been the same: to educate, raise funds, and raise awareness. These are my three basic steps to helping others lead a heart healthy life.

I have already been working intimately with the American Heart Association and had the opportunity to work with the staff on some of the largest events in Arkansas for this organization. Now, I am working to join with events all across our nation and even over seas!

The American Heart Association has a goal: by 2020, to improve the cardiovascular healthy of all Americans by 20 percent, while reducing deaths from cardiovascular diseases and stroke by 20 percent.

How are we going to do this?

1. Education. About heart disease, how it can be prevented, and how to live a healthy lifestyle. Though schools, communities, businesses and families.

2.Raise Funds. For the American Heart Association so that they may be able to continue their research for the new treatments for heart disease, as well as continue their many programs aimed towards education and awareness.

3. Raise Awareness. Of the American Heart Association and its many programs and partnerships such as: Go Red For Women, Hoops For Heart, Jump Rope For Heart, NFL Play 60 Challenge, My Life Check and, my favorite, the Alliance For A Healthier Generation.

Obesity has been found to be one of the root causes of several diseases, including heart disease. It can cause not only heart disease and stroke, but high blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, and asthma as well as many other diseases.

In 2005 the Alliance for a Healthier Generation was founded by the American Heart Association and the Clinton Foundation as a response to the growing rate of childhood obesity. It’s goal is to reduce the prevalence of childhood obesity and to empower children to develop lifelong, healthy habits. The frightening reality is that this generation could be the first in history to live shorter lives than their parents because 1 in 3 children are overweight or obese. That’s a scary thought.

By working with schools, companies, communities, healthcare professionals and families the Alliance is transforming the conditions and systems that lead to healthier kids. Together we are leading the charge against childhood obesity.

With the title of Miss Teen International, my reach has been broadened and I now have the foothold I need to work on a national and international level with the American Heart Association. There is much to be done and not very much time to do it, so new events and ideas are still piling in! I’ll keep you posted on all of our progress so stay tuned!

Much love,

Haley Pontius

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Miss and Miss Teen International 2013

Just as all of us delegates from Mrs. International were packing up and heading home, all the contestants for Miss and Miss Teen International were heading into Chicago along with their families.

It was a privilege to sit in the Presidential box with Mel and Mary Richardson, along with their family, to watch the preliminaries for the Miss and Miss Teen contestants. Each of these young women worked hard to be there; not only in terms of themselves, but also on behalf of their platforms.

One of those evenings, I was honored to be invited to dine with the Richardson’s and their core team. I don’t care to call them a team though. They ARE an integral part of the International Pageant system, but they are also family to the Richardson’s. They've known each other not just for years, but for decades. And that says a lot don't you think?

My husband (and Mr. International 2013) escorted me on finals night.

John had been in a golf tournament all week, but he was able to join me on finals night. Although the preliminaries and final night help the judges select the new Miss and Miss Teen International 2013, it was also a way to celebrate the year of hard work both Krista Wanous and Caroline Crowley.

Haley, Miss CO Int’l, me and Jesse at their coronation ball.

Congratulations to the new Miss Teen International 2013 Haley Pontius and the new Miss International 2013 Jesse Ladoue.  Both are smart, beautiful and accomplished ladies.  I had the chance to meet Jesse during my coronation ball the Saturday before and was struck by how elegant she is. Haley is a joy as I found after she was crowned.  The three of us will get a chance to know each other some more during our official photo shoot with Clay Spann!

Be the change,

Amy Gregorio 
Your Mrs. International 2013

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

307

307 days stood between the night I was crowned Miss New York International and the moment Miss International 2013 would be named.  307 chances to make my mark on my state and those I came across.
307 opportunities to work toward a once in a lifetime moment and year.  307 times to visualize what actually hearing my name called on July 27, 2013 would look and feel like (ok, maybe 307 times 2 for that one).

If I may speak candidly - when I left my full-time career back in January in order to make the most of my year as a state titleholder, without realizing it I tacked on some unwelcomed extra pressure.  Pressure to not have to look back on my leap of faith with regret, pressure to validate the sacrifices my loved ones made, and pressure to live up to the well wishes and positive expectations of those I met throughout my journey.  I immediately realized that I would have to work incredibly hard and leave no stone unturned in the process.  I truly believe that anyone within a 5 block radius felt the stress and tension that sometimes accompanied my preparation (oops).

Then something beautiful happened when I arrived in Chicago.  I just felt happy to be here, honored to be on an international stage, knowing that so few women will ever get the chance to experience something like that. Even beyond this, I started really falling in love with the women I was meeting!  As a volunteerism advocate, I had so many moments of comfort knowing that I was surrounded by our next generation of service leaders and positive role models.  All of that pressure melted away and I was able to just have fun.  From cheering on my sister queens during rehearsal, giggling in the green room getting our hair and make-up done,  and taking silly photos backstage I knew that if it wasn’t me I would be happy seeing any of those ladies have their moment.

I was eerily calm Saturday evening – with the exception of being called TENTH in the top ten… not so calm then.  I led a few group prayers with the ladies on my side of the stage and the other Miss contestants before evening gown, feeling SO grateful for how far we had come and how I knew that God’s plan was about to be revealed.

And then it happened.  I heard my name.  307 days, chances, opportunities all coming to fruition in those few words that announced that my life would be forever changed.  Looking out in the audience and seeing my State Directors, Jodi and Scott Cessna, and all of my loved ones crying along with me made all of the hard work and dedication so worth it.  This was as much a triumph for them as it was for me.  It was the collective effort and support they offered when my faith waivered that got me to this point in one piece – I will be forever grateful to each of them for being my strength when I thought I had nothing left to give.

I will probably still wake up tomorrow and wonder if it’s real, wonder if it is just another dream.  The moment was perfect, everything I hoped it would be.  However, the real treasure was in the unexpected: the relationships, the inspiration, the late night conversations with my sister queens, and the friendships that I will always cherish.

At the Coronation Ball with my State Directors, the Cessnas, and some of my sister queens from New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania



I took this video at the conclusion of finals competition… BEFORE results.  I wanted to always remember that moment before I knew what the outcome would be. 

Love,
Jesse

Monday, August 12, 2013

My Crowning Moment

I stood on stage grinning ear to ear, squeezing the hands of the girls next to me. I could hear the voices of the hosts and the excited cheers of the crowd and I could see the bright lights and the smiling faces, but my mind was somewhere else.

I wasn’t thinking about winning, but about my week spent with the other contestants. I had made new friends, my sister queen had truly become my sister, and I had grown so much in those few short days. I 
had had the time of my life and I didn’t want it to end, but here we were and it was almost over.

The International Pageant system has always been one that I deeply loved. I admired the national queens for their grace, dignity, and kind hearts. They exemplified the qualities of a true queen in every area of their lives. It was an honor just to be given the chance to compete for the title and we were proud to be the class of 2013. We gave it our all and we left everything on the stage. It was an exhilarating week full of memories that we will never forget, bonds that formed and friendships that grew. The young women I met throughout that week reflected integrity, confidence, leadership, and character. These virtues shown through not only on the stage, but off it as well. The girls that I came to know were kindhearted and genuine and I will miss them terribly.

What I will miss the most is the time spent with these girls. Dancing backstage with Miss Teen Georgia, making silly faces with Miss Teen Illinois, and our bridge (or was it more like a tunnel?) that we all 
ran through backstage laughing before finals. These are the memories that I will always remember, laugh about, and treasure. 

To think it was over and they were about to announce who the new Miss Teen International was seemed crazy to me. All of the preparation that went into this competition and it was over! It didn’t seem real!

We stood in a line with our heads held high and our shaking hands clasped tightly in one another’s. Our hearts were pounding and the butterflies in our stomachs were fluttering. It’s a hard thing to describe, but it was a terrible yet wonderful feeling.

Then he said my name and I almost fell on the floor. I couldn’t believe it. In fact, I still can’t believe it! It’s hard to wrap my head around and I still wake up in the mornings and think “Did this really happen?”

Throughout that night, the question everyone continuously asked me was “How do you feel?” and every time my answer was “I have no words.”

Because in that moment the way I felt was indescribable.

Always,

Haley Pontius
Miss Teen International 

Friday, August 9, 2013

Lurie Children's Hospital

Miss International 2012, Krista Wanous; me; and Miss Teen International, Caroline Crowley with a precious patient who had a crush on Krista!

For my very first appearance, I met up with Miss and Miss Teen International 201.  Denise from WKPR escorted us downtown to Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital. We spent time with truly resilient patients who are some of the youngest, yet some of the bravest there are.  As a parent, I have a hard time when my children even have ear infections, so to be one of those parents with children who need the help of experts is something I can't fathom.  But, they do so with such grace and optimism.  There are times in life you must simply have faith and believe there is a plan. The facility and its staff perform some of the most advanced life-save procedures in the Midwest.  It’s why I’ve spent years running and climbing tall buildings for them!

Morgan was so excited to try on the crown in spite of her surgery! She was part of my good luck at Mrs. International.

Our visit to Lurie’s also meant the chance to meet once again with the miraculous Morgan Miller. As Mrs. Illinois International I had the chance to meet with Morgan the week before heading to Mrs. International. At the time, she was in the ICU and intubated; her doctors were mystified about why she continue having encephalitis. At that point she couldn't talk due to her breathing tube. Morgan could only wave her hand.  But...only a couple of weeks later she's able to sit up, she's able to speak and her recovery has been going very well. We saw Morgan just a day after she received a shunt. Her room was covered with cards and well wishes from people all over the country. It was an honor to make one of my very first appearances with her.

She now has over 13,000 followers on a special Facebook prayer page which set up for her. The power of prayer!!  Go like it and follow her journey! It was a great day (in spite of some of Chicago’s worst traffic ever) spent with Miss International 2012, Krista Wanous and Miss Teen International 2012, Caroline Crowley.  I loved watching them with the children and learned much from them both. They have been extraordinary queens and I'm sure we'll see much more them in the coming years!

Be the change,

Amy Gregorio
Your Mrs. International 2013

www.luriechildrens.org
https://www.facebook.com/PrayersForMorganMiller

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Illinois: Mile After Magnificent Mile


Although I have lived in several states, Illinois is now my home. It’s where I’ve been for the last 10-years and where my husband and I are raising our children. Family and friends often visit us since we are in a suburb of Chicago. The Windy City does have so much to offer, but so does our entire state. So, if you were to visit, I would recommend trying all of Illinois.  But first, you must understand a few things about us to make the trip even more worthwhile!

We here in Illinois boast many firsts:

* Illinois was the first state to ratify the 13th Amendment to the Constitution abolishing slavery in        1865.
*The first aquarium and skyscraper were both built in Chicago.
*The first McDonald’s opened in Des Plaines in 1955.

Now, on with your trip! I highly suggest you try our food, sports and other fun activities. Most importantly, let’s discuss food. We’re known for our great food and take it very seriously:

*Our state snack food is popcorn. (Preferably Garrett popcorn’s Chicago Mix)
*Evanston is the home of the ice cream sundae. Love Evanston!
*We pride ourselves on the best pizza, hot beef sandwiches and hot dogs.
*Chicago is home to the world's largest cookie and cracker factory, where Nabisco made 16 billion Oreo cookies in 1995.


Maybe you want to take in some sporting events:

Our state dance is square dancing! But, we also cheer on the Bears, the Bulls, the Blackhawks and we each must choose between the Cubs or White Sox, unless you are in southern Illinois where there are a few Cardinal fans! We have some great golf courses; just ask my husband who is an avid golfer.


We have so many activities throughout our beautiful state, so see where the road takes you!

*Hike, bike and zip line and bring your camera!
*Go eagle watching in Galena, Alton and Cypress. Again, bring your camera.
*Take a trip down the Mother Road, otherwise known as Route 66.
*Looking for some thrills?  Visit Six Flags in Gurnee!
*Visit out state capitol and The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield.
*Check out the Haunted Decatur Ghost Tour
*Go for on an excursion aboard the Celebration Belle in Moline, a deluxe, 800-passenger, vessel on the Upper Mississippi River.
*Oh, and if you are a train fanatic, like my son, make a trip to the Galesburg railroad museum.
*Visit Bald Knox Cross of Peace at the top of the Shawnee National Forest in Union County.
*Murphysboro annual cook-off offers the best BBQ.
*Take in many county fairs and festivals with rich traditions!
*And…whether it is Ravinia, Millennium Park, the Oriental Theater or Majestic Theater…go to one our gazillion venues and you will be able to catch a show somewhere in Illinois! Second City has launched the acting careers of many!

Other known trivial facts I personally find worth bragging about:

*Chicago Public Library is the world's largest public library with a collection of more than 2 million books.
*We are home to the Stanley Cup champions. Go Hawks!
*Illinois has some of the most down-to-earth people!

There is so much more you can do and enjoy here in the Land of Lincoln. Click on the link below and discover it for yourself.  Just tell them I sent you!

Be the change,

Amy Gregorio
You Mrs. International 2013

www.enjoyillinois.com

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Platform Goals


There’s so much to do and the clock is ticking. I have hit the ground running and in a pair of 5 inch heels!
Even if I had not become Mrs. International, my work on behalf of CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) would continue.

One of our main goals for CASA is to have a volunteer for every child in need by 2020 which means creating more awareness about our organization. As Mrs. International, I now have more opportunities to reach out to potential volunteers and organizations who can help us reach this goal. And I will do my very best to take advantage of every chance to speak about the organization and the children who need us all.
CASA is challenging to promote because what we do is so confidential.  Many of these young ones could be put in harm’s way should we give away too much information.  So you may not see the work I and other volunteers do because it must remain off-camera; their lives are not worth a photo op.  But the work is getting accomplished.  

As a national ambassador for CASA and member of the Speaker’s Bureau, I talk with many groups including corporations with volunteer programs.  Given more than a decade of working as a T.V. journalist, I have colleagues in media situated throughout the world. My plan is to call upon them as I travel.  Social media is a key to efficiently and effectively getting the word out there about CASA.


I am already working with organizations such as Prevent Child Abuse America (PCA) and Child Help.  Both wonderful organizations are dedicated to keeping child abuse and neglect from happening which is of great help to CASA. PCA has programs in the U.S. Puerto Rico and Canada and they’re part of the National Blue Ribbon Campaign, holding many big events during the year, but April is when they kick off “Child Abuse Prevention Month.”


Child Help is one of the only abuse hotlines which is staffed 24/7. Before becoming Mrs. International, I was asked to help them with Erin’s Law here in Illinois.  It is mandated in several states right now, requiring grades 1-6 to receive education about child abuse, neglect and bullying. It will be introduced in several more states this year and the program has already seen great results in Florida.

Considering 40-million children around the world suffer abuse neglect every single year. My platform has a universal message:  We need to save the futures of these children who suffer in silence.  As Mrs. International, I will continue building global partnerships with organizations like Child Helpline International.
Right now, these motivated organizations, along with CASA, are designing new ways to use this title of mine to benefit them on a broader level.

There will be a few meetings in this next week to discuss new opportunities. And the International Pageant system directors and staff are ready to help put all of this in to quick action.  It’s only been a couple of weeks and the calendar is already started to fill up! It's my mission to help ensure each of these children can look forward to a better future. And I plan to do so while representing the International Pageants system to the very best of my abilities which includes promoting our alliance with Go Red for Women.  Stay tuned!

Be the change,

Amy Gregorio 
You Mrs. International 2013

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Heart Health is a Family Affair


In 2007 my father was diagnosed with a heart disease called Atrial Fribrillation, in which the heart beats rapidly and erratically. At the time I was so young that I didn’t understand what was happening or
why my dad was in the hospital so often. But, through time my family realized the root cause of his heart disease was the way our family was living our every day lives. We all ate unhealthy and hardly
exercised. My parents were overweight and my father was a smoker for 35 years.

So, we decided to make a change.

We all began to exercise, eat healthier, lost weight, and my father quit smoking. Over the years my father’s condition, as well as the overall health of our family, has improved tremendously. With the help
of the American Heart Association my family was given the direction and support we needed to make this change.

Over the years, I have become deeply involved within this organization and it has grown very close to my heart. The mission set forth by the American Heart Association is simple, “To build healthier lives, free
of cardiovascular diseases and stroke.” That single purpose drives all that we do and the need for our work is beyond question. I’m honored to say I have been part of this organization and had the opportunity
to work side by side with the American Heart Association staff on some of the largest events in this organization.

With this said, I encourage you to make the decision. It starts with that. Decide to make the change. Know your family, access your environment, and DECIDE to make the change.

Check out the American Heart Association website at heart.org and the Alliance For A Healthier Generation at healthiergeneration.org for all your information! These websites have everything from heart healthy
recipes to easy exercises that you can fit into YOUR everyday life!

Specifically, I urge you to check out the American Heart Association’s Life’s Simple Seven Steps and My Life Check. Thanks to science and research, the American Heart Association has created this simple tool
so you know where you stand on your road to good health!

Choose to make the change now. If you don’t do it for yourself, do it for your family.

Much love,

Haley Rose Pontius

Monday, August 5, 2013

Volunteerism

I always get a bit of a blank stare when I tell someone that my platform is Volunteerism… and I get it.  It seems like a no-brainer, especially in the pageant world because we are all volunteers for our own causes and platforms.  So why pick something that is so obvious?

I have gone to a religiously-affiliated school from Pre-K through college, was very active in my church community growing up, and even participated in CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) sports leagues.  Every step of the way we were expected (not in a forceful way, but with the encouragement that it was the right thing to do) to always be giving.  Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter basket contributions were second nature, canned food or book drives were recurring events, and attending soup kitchens as class field trips were part of my way of life.  I didn’t realize until I my later teen years that this wasn’t common behavior across the board.

I became acutely aware that those who don’t routinely volunteer might not be doing so on purpose.  Most of the people I have come in contact with just don’t know how to find opportunities, and they don’t know how versatile volunteering can be.

I started promoting a site that I was actually using in my own time to find and squeeze volunteer events into an already packed schedule.  And so, my love for VolunteerMatch began (VolunteerMatch is the world’s largest online resource for volunteers).  Go to volunteermatch.org right now! (just kidding, read first and click later).  Create a volunteer profile, do a search based on location and cause, peruse the options like remote volunteering that allow you to offer services from home, sort by date to fit your schedule… Simply notice how convenient this tool is for people of all ages to use.   This is the new age of volunteerism – making service work for you.

This year, I want to turn the excuses why people don’t volunteer into excitement by introducing them to ways that make the entire experience personal, customized, and completely fulfilling.  When we are socially aware of the needs of our neighbors both near and far - quality of life increases, feelings of self-worth improve, and communities can be strengthened from the inside out.

My favorite image from my trip to Kenya in 2009.  I can still hear the joy in their voices as they jumped on me and tickled me from all angles.

A special moment at this year’s Special Olympics NY state championships.  These two athletes stole a kiss on each cheek from me – I love the spirit in each of our faces.  An experience I will always cherish.

Jesse Ladoue

25 Things You Didn't Know About Mrs. International 2013

25 Things You Didn't Know About Me

1) My family is my life. There is nothing more important than my husband and our children.

2) Growing up in several states and a dozen cities means a piece of me and my history is everywhere.

3) I have a "museum," in my closet including the suit I wore when accepting my first job as a reporter and the suits I wore when meeting 4 of our U.S. Presidents. Even my funky neon ski pants from 9th grade are in that closet.  It baffles my husband, but it's a piece of my traveling history.

4) I love warm laundry just out of the dryer on a chilly fall day, but I still prefer summer.

5) I will do anything for my kids; including riding an upside down roller coaster which is taking place next week.

6) I always (almost always) find the positive in anything; just ask my friends. It must drive them crazy
.
7) Pets are family in this household. My 15-year old cat passed away this year. 5-year old Ali still cries over him (as do I) so I'm not sure how to break it to my husband we need a new family member…like a dog? At least we have my Hanoverian, "Legacy," or "Legs,” who is a 16.3hh, 1200lb puppy. Seriously.

8) I cry easily. Whether it’s from joy, heart break or out of sympathy; I wear a lot of waterproof mascara.

9) I will never understand HOW an adult could hurt or neglect a child or an animal. There is no excuse.

10) I pray every night and thank Him for all I am blessed with learning every day. I also say a prayer for my loved ones and others including Quindera; a 2nd grader I met while in college through the "You Are Special," program. Please Lord, make sure she is okay and feels loved. Please.

11) Every story I’ve covered, however brutal, has forever changed me. My humor may be darker, but my heart is bigger because of everyone I’ve met. And yes, I remember just about everyone as I have a freakish memory.

12) True friends are a very rare find. They will catch your fall and are even happier than you when you succeed. Here is to good friends and great success!

13) I'm a night owl, yet I love waking early to snuggle with my kids before the days gets underway. They love it too, for now.

14) I speak with my mom (who's my BFF) at least twice a day, believe my dad's hung the moon and think my not-so-little brother (6'4) is the funniest person on the planet.

15) I truly love my in-laws...every one of them. How great is that?

16) I won the South Carolina Lt. Governor's Award when I was 10-yrs old for an essay I wrote about my thoughts on our future. My mom has it saved with everything else.  It’s a trip and not bad if I don’t say so myself.

17) Speaking of: I was raised by a stay-at-home mom who is one of the most well-read people I know, preaching "Girl Power!"

18) I grew up listening to “The Drifters,”  love all things Stevie Wonder and play Jimmy Buffet during our tough winters here in Chicago.

19) Family, friends, faith, laughter and love are the key to my happiness. Anything else? Nope.

20) One of my all-time favorite movies is a documentary called, “Buck.” It makes me want to move to Montana and wear nothing but jeans and boots too.  Just give the movie a try; it’ resonates. I am supposed to meet him this October!

21) I am technologically challenged. If you've seen my twitter or Instagram, you understand and I apologize;) And by now you know I am also horrible with punctuation as I spent too many years writing for the ear and not the eye. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it!

22) I want to travel to India and often listen to Indian music from artists like A.R. Rahman thanks to Pandora, but cannot make it past the first 20-minutes of “Slum Dog Millionaire.” The oil in the eye part was the final straw.

23) I am a goal driven person. Sometimes I wonder WHY did I sign up for this!? WHY!? But I must always follow through unless it is against medical advice.

24) Speaking of: I fractured my back (ok, some vertebrae) a little over a year ago when "Legs," displayed his frustration and threw me (he was apparently hurt.)  Given I had a horse fall on me in 6th grade, which left me unable to walk for a couple weeks, it is a huge show of support by my husband  who understands horses are a part of me. He really has no choice in the matter

25a) Doing rolls and stalls with the Red Barons has been the ultimate adrenaline rush and all for my job! I survived and all the station wanted to know was if the photog’s camera was ok! Ha!

25b) I wish I could create and then bottle a magic potion that would protect children, keeping them sweet and innocent forever!

Be the change!

Amy Gregorio 
Your Mrs. International 2013

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Jesse Ladoue - Miss International 2013

The  New York girl through and through.  I was born and raised in Elmira, NY (a small town upstate), attended college and worked professionally just north of New York City, and I currently reside in Western New York.  Thanks to each of these experiences I was able to grow into the person I am today and define my core values: spirit, authenticity, and celebration.   When I can approach each day and event with a vibrant spirit and have the confidence to be myself in all aspect – that’s when I’m living life to the fullest.  My parents, Carolyn Ladoue and Donal O’Shaughnessy and my siblings Donny, 28 and McKinley, 3 have always fostered an environment that encouraged me to follow my heart and be happy with who I am regardless of the opinions of others.

My biggest and littlest fans, Donny and McKinley!

I am a graduate of Iona College with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Mass Communication – Television and Video production.  I am halfway through earning my MBA in marketing (oy, someday we’ll get there!).  My higher education experience was full of extracurricular activities: Captain of the Cheerleading team, Student Government Vice President for Administration, and a sister of Phi Sigma Sigma Sorority (officially known as Fraternity – LITP).  My career goal is to be a social community manager for a non-profit or a corporate social responsibility manager to connect the business world to volunteer involvement, stressing a focus on giving back.

Through my education, internships, and pageant experience I have found a passion in custom branded content and the importance of personal branding.   In 2012 I launched JL Presentations, a consulting company focused on helping individuals “unwrap their presence” in the form of marketing strategies, personal platform campaigns, and image consulting.

My favorite quote is “Go confidently in the direction of your dreams.  Live the life you have imagined” as said by Henry David Thoreau.  That will continue to be the motto of my year as Miss International 2013: to leave no stone unturned, no opportunity to incite positive change left unfulfilled, and no day without simply being grateful and enjoying the ride.


Best,

Jesse
Miss International 2013

Saturday, August 3, 2013

My First Blog

Hi everyone!

My name is Haley Rose Pontius and I am Miss Teen International 2013. I am honestly still in disbelief that I am able to say this! I’m proud to have been chosen to represent not only the International system, but all of the extraordinary contestants at the pageant this year. I will strive to make you all proud in everything I do.

To break the ice, here is just a little bit about myself.

I’m the 17 year old daughter of Beverly and Doug Pontius and the little sister of William Pontius. I’ve grown up in the same town, in the same school, in the same house, with the same friends my entire life. I have found that the same children that I played with on the playground are now about to enter their senior year along side me. With only 500 students in my 7-12 grade high school it’s not hard to see how this is possible!

When I was 11 years old my father was diagnosed with a heart disease called Atrial Fibrillation. It was a rude awakening to the way my family was living and eye opener to the world around us. Over the years, my family has improved immensely in our eating habits, physical activity, and overall health. By working with the American Heart Association I hope to inspire, motivate, and encourage others to make a change in their lifestyle for the better.

I got my first taste of pageantry when I was three years old and my mother entered me in the county fair pageant. Immediately we were hooked! Since then, pageantry has always been something close to my heart and a huge part of my life. Had I never competed in pageants, I know I wouldn’t be who I am today. It has shown me how to be the person that I want to be and made me confident in who I am. The first time I ever competed in the International system was in April of 2012 in the Miss Teen Arkansas International Pageant. From the very beginning I fell in love with the people, the morals, and the ideas. Little did I know roughly 16 months later I would be Miss Teen International!

I am so thrilled to see what my year as Miss Teen International has in store for me and I hope you will all join with me on this journey of a lifetime by following my blogs, Twitter, and Instagram!

Haley Rose Pontius

Thursday, August 1, 2013

My Crowning Moment

My first walk as Mrs. International 2013!

Words cannot explain what it felt like when I became the new Mrs. International 2013. I may never be able to find the right words to describe it and for so many reasons.

For years I have come to watch Mrs. International.  Whether it be with friends or to cheer on friends; it has been an annual tradition. I understand the high caliber of ladies who are a part of this system.  Then I was able to spend a week getting to know the ladies who are part of our 2013 class. During the Saturday rehearsals, we listened to each other speak about our platforms and what lead us to them.  What strong women who had triumphed insurmountable circumstances! It brought me to tears along with just about everyone else out of inspiration and admiration.

In the dressing room with some of the most amazing ladies from around the world!

There were so many great moments during our week.  I began writing to you about our week together and realized I would have to break it down in to smaller pieces or you would be reading it for the next…well, week.  Aside from seeing my family and friends in the audience, one of my MANY favorite moments was during finals night.  Those of us who had just been called from the top 15 to the top 10 had but a few minutes to change in to fitness.  This is a workout in itself! So, I came flying down the stairs into our dressing room for Group “C” and there waiting for me were several of my classmates.  I am tearing up right now just thinking about them.  I stood there as everyone buzzed about me, helping me get dressed.  I had two people putting in my earrings (at the same time), while another helped get my feet into shoes. Someone else guided my arms into the correct holes of the top. I can only imagine how it must have looked! Yet, it was perhaps one of the sweetest (yet hectic) moments I have witnessed in a long while. So generous and helpful and knowing our class, it was not a surprise.

The magnitude of becoming Mrs. International 2013 is hard to explain. What this year will allow me to do on behalf of CASA is simply mind-boggling.  And considering each one of my classmates and what they are doing in their communities makes me extremely proud and diligent in my job to represent us all this year.

And I thank the International Pageants system.  None of this would be possible without Mary and Mel Richardson and their loyal staff who work tirelessly throughout the year so we could have such a wonderful experience and a year of great potential.  And for me, I can never truly thank the very large circle of family, friends, and cheerleaders I have in my life. Their encouragement and advice has been instrumental.  The support I have received from CASA and like-minded organizations reminds me always of why I must do everything I can to make the most of every single opportunity this year.

ALL of that was all swirling about me as we all returned to the stage for the opening of the envelope. Once I heard them say, “The new Mrs. International is Mrs. Illinois…Amy Gregorio,” my brain briefly checked out and then returned once I saw my sweet husband walking toward me on-stage. It is an honor.  It is a privilege.  And it is phenomenal.

Be the change,

Amy Gregorio 
Your Mrs. International 2013


Jesse Ladoue - 25 Things You Didn't Know About Me

JESSE LADOUE, MISS INTERNATIONAL 2013
25 Things You Don’t Know About Me

1.  My current hometown is Buffalo, NY – and I LOVE the food here!

2.  My most memorable experience to date was presenting awards at the NY   Special Olympics Track & Field events.

3.  I have two siblings: Donny, 28 and McKinley, 3.

4.  My favorite colors are yellow and turquoise, both together and separately.

5.  The movie Mr. Holland’s Opus makes me cry every time.

6.  I feel at home when I’m performing.  Emceeing is one of my favorite things to do.

7.  Someday, I’d like to design a line of greeting cards.

8.  I traveled to Kenya in 2009 for a volunteer mission trip and I plan to go back this year.

9.  I never miss an opportunity to go to a sporting event.

10.  My dad and I ran the Buffalo Half Marathon together in May.

11.  I am proud to help young women find their “personal brand” and presentation skills through my consulting business, JL Presentations.

12.  My favorite foods are sushi and cheese.

13.  I’ve been to 6 foreign countries (so far!): Canada, Mexico, Great Britain, Ireland, France, and Kenya.

14.  My last Halloween costume was the leg lamp from “A Christmas Story.”

15.  I am a thrill seeker and love roller coasters.

16.  Living in the New York metropolitan area for six years taught me to always be true to myself.

17.  My favorite celebrity is Ellen Degeneres – I want to dance with her!

18.  Chocolate or vanilla? Always, Vanilla.

19.  I absolutely love corny jokes.

20.  The best lazy days are spent watching infomercials.

21.  I have a pet Holland Lop rabbit named Toby.

22.  I love spending hours on Photoshop.

23.  I want to visit every continent – yes, even Antarctica.

24.  Motown is the most commonly played music on my playlists.

25.  Words to live by: “Walk like you’re somebody.”

~ Jesse