Wednesday, May 28, 2014

International Queens in the News (May Edition)

Miss Atlantic States International 2014 - Andi DeField

Finding Ability in a Learning Disability (Learning Ally)

Mrs. Australia International - Kate Johnson

Mrs Australia Kate Johnson brings a touch of goodness to international stage (The Telegraph)

Australia Model Conference featuring panelist Mrs. Australia International (New Zulu Media)

Beautiful You Australia announces its ambassadors (Mother Driven)

Mrs. Canada International 2014 - Angie Shilliday

Stories From Our Streets: Introducing Mrs. Canada 2014, Angie Shilliday (Calgary is Awesome)

Mrs. Eastern States International 2014 - Amber Wandtke

Armed Forces Foundation Gala (Bisnow/WTOP)

Mrs. Great Lakes International 2014 - Heidi Scheer

Autism Advocate - Heidi Scheer (Fox News 2)

Mrs. Great Plains International 2014 - Maggi Thorne

Mayor of Lincoln Press Conference, Soles4Souls Effort  (Channel 5 - City TV)

Soles4Souls- The Greatest Shoe Drive on Earth (The Morning Blend)

Lincolnites + Donating Shoes = Wearing out Poverty (Soles4Souls)

Miss Teen Illinois International 2014 - Camille Paddock

Miss Kansas International 2014 - Lily Wu

Mentoring Monday: Lily Wu on being a hybrid mentor/mentee (Biz Women/Business Journal)

Mrs. Kansas International 2014 - Kimberly McDowell

Miss New Jersey International 2014 - Lea Moelk

Miss Teen Pennsylvania International 2014 - Brielle Corrente

Teen helping others overcome adversity (The Tribune-Democrat)

Miss St. Kitts & Nevis International 2014 - Stacey Greene

Pageantry and Possibilities (Miy Vue)

Miss Teen South Carolina International 2014 - Morgan Bacon

Mrs. United Kingdom International 2014 - Juanita Ingram

The Chloe Show: Mentoring Women & Girls Around the World (Blog Talk Radio/The Chloe Show)

The Big Debate Show with Special Guest Juanita Ingram (The Big Debate Show)

Book Signing at Barnes & Noble (Times Free Press)

Miss Utah International 2014 - Alexis Schmid

Miss Utah International using skills learned at GTI to kick start career (Granite District News)

Miss West Virginia International 2014 - LaTasha Mitchell

Danville native named Miss West Virginia International 2014 (Coal Valley News)

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Pinwheels for Prevention

The blue pinwheels you see during the month of April symbolize Child Abuse Prevention month. Those pinwheels are reminders children should have lives filled with love, laughter, care and play. The color blue symbolizes the black and blue marks that are left on the body or soul of a child who has been abused or neglected.

Hundreds gathered at Navy Pier.

To mark the month, Prevent Child Abuse America (PCA) holds a national event where we gather with blue pinwheels in hand to honor those young victims and to pledge to prevent future victims. This year PCA held two national pinwheel events. The first was in New York City and the second was at Navy Pier in Chicago! After all, Prevent Child Abuse America was founded in Chicago in 1972.

I was invited to the Midwest pinwheel event where they gave me a truly lovely introduction that just about made me blush! We then heard from the PCA President and CEO Jim Hmurovich and then Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

I was able to speak with the Mayor and thank him for speaking up for children who need to be heard and helped.

After the all pinwheels had been handed out, several of us had lunch together and discussed some of the upcoming events for PCA including their national convention in Jacksonville this May. I see myself becoming even more involved with their work in the future.

Be the change!

Amy Gregorio 
Your Mrs. International

Saturday, May 24, 2014


Friday May 16th, I reached a milestone in my life and I graduated from high school!

Although I’m thrilled to be able to say that, I’m also a little sad. Being from a small town, I’ve grown up with the total 79 people who walked with me Friday night. Close to half of my graduating class have been there with me since first grade. I think that’s definitely why bringing this chapter of my life to a close was so difficult.

I’m so grateful for the years that I’ve spend at my high school and the friendships that I’ve made. People always say that after high school you won’t stay in touch with your old friends anymore, but that’s not always true. I’ve been attached at the hip to my friends since first grade and even though we are ALL attending different colleges (six of us to be exact) we all know we’ll never loose touch. We’ve actually already sat down (I don’t know how many times) and planned out weekends and travel routes!

As everyone knows, during graduation there is the tradition of the class throwing their cap into the air. Well, there is a pretty cool story to mine! I was so caught up in the moment that I wasn’t even sure when to throw my cap, so I ended up throwing it a few seconds later that everyone else. After I threw it, I looked up and within that second I was hit in the face by the brim of someone else’s hat. Of course, I looked down again because it kind of hurt! And then I felt something land softly on top on my head. I reached up and grabbed it to find a cap sitting perfectly on my head. Without thinking I looked inside at the nametag and there was my name! My family saw it happen and stood there in disbelief because I had thrown my cap about twenty or thirty feet in the air and it fell perfectly back down on top of my head. I have no idea how this happened, but I’m taking it as a good omen for the future!

As sad as I am to be saying goodbye, I’m even more excited for the future! I will be attending a community college not far from where I live for my first two years. I know that this is what’s right for me right now because I see more benefits here that any other school. After my two years, I plan to transfer and major in public speaking. For now that’s as far as I’ve got planned! The rest I’ll have to wait and see!

All my love,

Haley Pontius

Friday, May 23, 2014

Pageant Hair Secrets!

I get asked all the time about how I achieve my pageant hair. It took me many years before I realized how to control and maintain my head of hair – it is thick and often unruly, but with the right techniques can work out well.

I find that the pin curl method works best for great (and lasting) volume and curl.

Step 1: Starting from the hairline, I take small sections of hair and spritz with a heat protectant from root to end

Step 2: Tease/Backcomb the root to create lift (Remember ladies, the higher the hair the closer to God!)

Step 3: Using a 1” curling iron, I curl from the end to the root away from the face and hold until the hair is heated all the way through (for me it is 10 seconds, however depending on your hair length, thickness, and curling iron temperature that can vary – please be cautious)

Step 4: After unraveling the now curled hair from the iron, it should now be in the shape of a loop. Secure this loop to your scalp by using a duckbill clip to hold it in place

Step 5: Repeat teasing, curling, and clipping in sections until your whole head is secure.

Step 6: Set… I typically will set my hair first and then do my make-up and get dressed. The longer you leave the pin curls in, the tighter the curls will be. I typically aim to leave them in for about 30 minutes.

Step 7: Take out pins and shake out hair. Arrange hair part and face framing piece and spray with hair spray for hold.


Here is the video that helped me master this technique, however, I have made some changes based on trial and error. The major differences between her version and mine are the way she curls the hair and that I prefer to start from the front of the head and work my way backwards: 


Seek Happiness,


Thursday, May 22, 2014

Packing for Jacksonville

Back in the day…Well, okay, as of 2008, I have offered friends competing in Mrs. International the use of my home as a command central for packages. (It was only 10 minutes from the hotel.) I would bring those boxes of goods to the hotel once the delegates arrived. I learned a lot from that over the years.

And now, I’ve had several Mrs. International delegates contact me in search of some packing advice for getting to Jacksonville this July with their brain intact. It was even suggested I write a blog about this topic as to help others getting ready for July. So, here it goes!

Given baggage fees imposed on flyers; shipping items to the hotel may be a more economical alternative. Plus, there is something wonderful about getting it out of your home and on its way. Done! I am a firm believer in being as organized as possible when it comes to being out of town and competing for Mrs. International. Calm mind=more enjoyable experience. It seems to help ease the mind that is already on overload! But before you go cramming everything into cardboard boxes, I have some advice to offer:

*Talk with your local UPS store or place where you plan to ship the boxes. Ask how long it will take for those boxes to arrive the day BEFORE you arrive. They should be able to give you a very specific idea of what absolute date you must have those boxes shipped.

*Contact the host hotel and let them know the boxes will be arriving. (This is more for you to feel organized than anything. The hotel is ready for you.)

*Boxes should contain items you CAN live without or items you can buy in Florida if needed. This includes items such as pajamas; back-up clothing if all else fails or catches on fire; extra eyelashes; blister helpers and such. I would even ship a steamer, extra hangers, and a cheap clothing rack ahead of my arrival. Again, organization is everything when it comes to mentally feeling ready to be your very best! Om.

*Create a list of what each box contains, so in the unlikelihood that box does not arrive, you already know what that box was holding.

*Head over to Michael's and find some unusual looking duct tape you can use to close the top of each box. That will make it much easier for the hotel concierge to locate your boxes. “They are the boxes with the pink camouflage duct tape...”

*Have them send it to the hotel and in care of both your name and your title.

*Before shipping the boxes to Jacksonville, pay for RETURN shipping AND put the paid-for return labels in each corresponding box before sealing them all shut with the left over duct tape reel inside.

*During the week; as you continue to go through wardrobe and other such items, you can then pack up those items into the boxes, reseal them and bring them to the front desk to ship home. And that will give you more space in your hotel room and peace of mind. Clean out that chi! Yippee!

*FYI: Your suitcase should contain the more important items to have with you. The absolutely critical items needed for the competition such as your gowns, fitness, and interview outfits should be carried on the plane as carry-on. We are only a few months out…details are everything and it will be SO worth it! I hope this helps make you feel prepared and more excited for the journey the ahead.

Be the change!

Amy Gregorio
Your Mrs. International

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Competitive Image Trunk Show

Being Miss Teen International has its perks, one of my favorites being the beautiful wardrobe that I get from Joey at Competitive Image.

Traveling down to Dothan, Alabama is something that I always look forward to! I love every minute spent with my pageant family! That’s why I was so stoked a few weeks ago when I was able to attend the Trunk Show at Competitive Image. I found some of the most beautiful clothes that I absolutely fell in love with!

But, of course, just like our contestants, I’m keeping my wardrobe a secret! Joey is amazing at what he does so I guarantee it’ll be a showstopper!

So, if you want to know what I’ll be wearing, I guess you’ll just have to wait and see!

All my love,

Haley Pontius

Monday, May 19, 2014

Sharing Good News

Many of you know that I left my full-time job after being crowned Miss New York International in order to create significant social impact. With the mindset that God called me to serve and promote selfless volunteer acts, he would also provide when the time was right for me to re-join the professional world.

In the past I had dabbled in careers in higher education, financial services, sales, and technology – but I still could not picture my life in the long term. However, my involvement with the International Pageant system has made my passion clear. Why can’t I be a “professional volunteer” for my entire life? It became obvious to me that I belonged in the non-profit sector, serving an organization with a strong mission to improve quality of life.

Since the official philanthropy of the International Pageants is the American Heart Association, I have been blessed with the opportunity to work with many chapters of the AHA nationwide and attend all sorts of traditional and innovative events that the AHA holds in each market. Not only that, during media tours I am expected to speak about their mission and I truly have to know my stuff! Statistics and facts have not only become talking points for me, but have worked their way into my own personal mission.

I am honored and proud to say that I have officially joined the American Heart Association in Buffalo, NY and have taken on the position of Heart Walk Director! Each choice and sacrifice has brought me to this place and I am so grateful that my faith in God’s plan has allowed me to stay grounded and focused on doing His good works day in and day. He will provide!

A look into my involvement (thus far) with the AHA

Seek Happiness,


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Haiti International Pageant

It was a privileged to serve as one of 5 judges for the 2014 Haiti International pageant. It was an honor, given the women I met and the night itself!

What an unexpected gift from the Haiti International Director!

The judges line-up: Kola, Cleve, Whitney, myself and Jessica. Big decisions to be made by us.

I admire and adore each judge I spent time with…one of which was one of MY judges at Mrs. International! Whitney Carr is the mother of Jurnee Carr, Miss Teen International 2012. Whitney was the co-pilot of her daughter’s year and a perfect choice to help select the new Haiti queens. She is funny, beautiful and always has snacks on hand for the rest of us should the show run late.

Even if she weren’t from Arkansas, where my parents live, I would still be in love with Kola!

I also met Kola Brown (Miss Arkansas International 2012 and Miss International 2012 runner-up) in person. I watched her compete in 2012. She is tall, stunning and also very articulate. Jessica Mitchell had not been to a pageant before, but this gorgeous gal has a wealth of community experience (One Hope) and brains to serve as a great judge, in my opinion. She has such depth to her! And there was Cleve Mesidor. She has worked under the Obama administration, with the House of Representative in D.C. and recently spent 6 months in Haiti!

It was possible through the Haiti director, Hermanie Pierre. She directs with both heart and ethics. Beforehand, she helped each contestant by offering weekly group conference calls. They were given a few days of site seeing and activities during the pageant. And then there was her show:

There were THREE singers, including the famous (and Haitian proclaimed Diva) Emeline Michel. There was also a Haitian rapper and a famous Haitian comedian. It was a live version of “Haitian International Pageant Got Talent!”

Emeline Michel oozes that cool-cat vibe in a world-class voice.

Mrs. International 2000, Joanne Bouvier-Brown, was one of the emcees and as delightful and elegant as always. If they could bottle her up and sell it…

With Haiti Consul Lesly Conde. He told me he was there when I was crowned Mrs. International!

Congratulations to the new Haiti queens. Mrs. Haiti-Lorraine Charles (soon-to-be Dr.): Miss Haiti-Regine Pierre; and Miss Teen Haiti- Ariel Metayer.

Each new queen is wonderful and each has the education in medicine to help her serve their platforms in Haiti, which they clearly demonstrated to us this weekend.

Be the change!

Amy Gregorio 
Your Mrs. International 

Saturday, May 17, 2014


Recently I had the wonderful privilege to meet with a man named Shane Wilson, who produces commercials and directs documentary films. We sat down for a while and in that short time he taught me so much about speaking.

Shane told me that overall I speak very well, but there were a few little adjustments that needed to be made. Apparently, I have trouble with words ending in “le” such as double or trouble! But I’ve been working on it and I’ve defiantly improved!

If you can, I recommend finding someone like Shane who can help you improve the way that you speak. Training like this will set you up to succeed in the future in so many different aspects of your life!

For example… a goal of mine in the future is to get into the commercial making business as a spokesperson. Another is that I’m considering majoring in broadcasting.

Not only in those situations, but also in everyday life it is important to speak properly. Automatically, you appear to be more professional and established.

As a titleholder, people look up to you and often expect you to conduct yourself like a queen would. (Which includes speaking like a queen).

I think it’s very important to look and sound your best especially when wearing your crown! Professionals like Shane can help you begin to speak more clearly and properly and set you up to succeed!

All my love,

Haley Pontius

Friday, May 16, 2014

Appearance Outfit Inspiration

As a titleholder, you will be attending events from casual walks to CEO meetings. It is so important that you are presentable AND appropriate at all times. My rule of thumb is to think: “Be the most glamorous woman there, yet not be over/under dressed”. We are looked to as beacons of inspiration for fashion and should always dress to impress.

Casual Event: 

If you have an event where you know there will be kids running around and/or you will be doing lots of bending down or moving, it’s important to be comfortable and functional. I try to stay away from traditional denim, and trade for colored denim as it 1) looks brighter and 2) dresses things up a smidge. However, This inspiration photo is a great example. The polish of the silk top, blazer, and accessories balance the low key bottoms. Plus – most photos of you will be from the waist-up so keep that in mind as you are choosing options.

In regard to shoes – I love the ones pictured here, but heels are not always necessary. A cute and CLEAN pair of flats or dressy sandals can work too (but I would steer clear of any kind of “flip-flop”)

School Visit: 

How cute is this inspiration photo!? When visiting with students, I love to max out on bright clothing. We know that kids respond well to colors and it is an easy way to grab their attention in a fun way. To them you are a “princess” they almost expect you to look like you popped out of a storybook. Plus, colorblocking is a major trend lately. It’s important to be cautious of any outfits that you feel need to be constantly adjusted or could potentially show too much skin. You will likely be bending down or sitting and the last thing you want to have to think about is your outfit when there are amazing connections and conversations to be had.

Business/Sponsorship Meeting: 

Coverage is key – sleek and feminine. If you are forming a business relationship with a sponsor, you must rely on your interview skills and not a racy outfit. That said, be fashion forward. We are a different and creative potential partner for them, we bring something different to the table. Show them how you would present yourself if you were at a trade show/event on their behalf. Obviously, colors and accessories may vary based on your personality and the type of business you are presenting to. I love this look because the accessories carry all the pizazz but it still says that you can control the room.

TV appearance: 

I love this outfit for TV. For anything being filmed, you are typically instructed to steer clear of busy patterns, whites, reds, and other harsh colors. The silhouette of this dress is incredibly flattering and will not add any bulk while standing or sitting (as long as you are sitting up straight). The neckline will bring the attention to your face and the pop of color gives the outfit the extra intrigue you need to capture the viewer and show off your own flair.

I hope this gives you some direction and inspiration in your outfit choices. All of these images were drawn from Pinterest. Often when I am at a loss for ideas, I seek out the site and am amazed at suggestions I find that I can incorporate existing wardrobe items into. It helps to make/create a Pinterest board to keep things organized so you can find these references when you are in a pinch!

Seek Happiness,


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Bahamas Children's Emergency Hostel

Spring break! That blessed time of year when we Midwesterners attempt to escape a long winter in hopes of finding warmer weather. We decided our winter had been so terrible in Chicago; we had to flee the country and head to Paradise Island in the Bahamas.

Although it is breathtakingly beautiful, which is why most of us travel so far to get there; the Bahamas have many issues to grapple with including a desperate need for foster families. There are far more children in need of safe homes than there are foster families to provide them. So, children have to live in group homes such as the Bahamas Children's Emergency Hostel.

So, along with swimsuits and sunscreen, I also packed along dozens of new sheets, towels and undergarments. (Many of which had been sent to me through the generosity of wonderful Mrs. International ladies who I cannot wait to see this summer in Jacksonville!)

Thank you for these wonderful donations. The Children’s Emergency Hostel was overwhelmed with gratitude.

There was so much to bring along, it would've cost $400 to ship ahead of us to the hotel. My plan was foiled as that extra money could be better used by the home. So, I decided to take the boxes along as extra checked baggage. What’s an extra bag or two? Or three?

The Children’s Emergency Hostel is filled beyond capacity with more than 32 children living there. These kids range in age from newborn through 11 years old.

Before being given a tour and meeting some of the children who live in the emergency hostel, I was able to sit with the director of the home. They operate on a budget of about $300,000 a year. Most of it is funded through private donations and fundraising events they hold during the year such as a, “Steak-out.”

Beyond the bottom-line budgets are the children she and a half-dozen other women care for each day. And she was very candid when she told me that after three years it's sometimes too much for her heart. I can only try to understand what she takes home with her at night.

Many of the children call the hostel their home because of abuse and neglect; typically stemming from substance abuse issues. Unfortunately there are also some parents who for financial and other reasons cannot care for these young ones.

I don't have any pictures of the children, as they need to be shielded from prying eyes for safety reasons. Still, I wanted you to see where these sweet boys and girls live.

Seven infants under the age of one year live and sleep in this room.

Several young boys live in this bedroom.

I was nearly knocked over by the one of the biggest hugs I've gotten from one of the littlest two year olds I've yet to meet. After sitting on my lap, this itty-bitty girl asked my name and told me she was “Brittany.” And then, for the rest of my visit she was on my hip. She and her older brother live at the home...for now.

She's that funny little kid you have to keep your eye on. Brittany started digging through my bag and eating all the old M&M’s at the bottom of it. She would hold up a found M&M, giggle, and throw it in her mouth. It nearly broke my heart when she asked me to take her home with me. Not sure they would allow her through customs, but I was tempted to try!

There was also the sweetest little one-year-old boy toddling about the hostel. He came there when his mother recently fell ill and had to be taken to the hospital. She passed away the day before I arrived. They're not sure if he has any family members who can take care of him, so the hostel may become his permanent home. I pray his mother continues to watch over and guide him in these coming years. And I hope he is able to trace his roots back to her and her final resting place. Yes, I have those dark concerns for him.

The home was very organized and tidy for my visit. Still, my home’s walls are lined with artwork from my kids, which I proudly hang for all to see. Ali and Johnny may be even prouder of their hard work! And I noticed there weren’t any personal touches or artwork proudly on display as this may or may not be a temporary holding home for these young boys and girls. Regardless, may each child who enters through the doors of this home find a safe and permanent one very soon. I will keep each one of these sweet peas in my heart every night.

With Hostel Hostel director Marita Ferguson.

God Bless those very patient ladies who look after these children in need and I thank the Mrs. International ladies who took time to shop for these kiddos in need and to ship everything to me. You were with me!

Be the change!

Amy Gregorio

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Arkansas International

Just a few weeks ago, I was at the Mrs., Miss and Miss Teen Arkansas International 2014 Pageant and it was incredible!

The weekend was just like I remember it being last year and even though I was a little under the weather; I loved every second of it!

Walking back onto that stage and looking out into the audience, I almost burst into tears! It was that moment that it kind of hit me that a chapter of my life was closing and I would no longer have Mollie and Quynci by my side. I was so blessed to wear the Arkansas International crown and sash and even though that part of my life is over now, I’m excited to continue on my journey as Miss Teen International.

The weekend was full of laughter and fun for all of the contestants and I know they had the time of their lives! After this weekend, I can’t wait for the International Pageant this summer and meeting all of the 2014 contestants!

And a huge congratulations to the Miss Teen Arkansas International 2014 top five! All of the contestants in the teen division were outstanding and I’m very proud of my state and the girls who came to represent it. It never fails to blow me away at how many of our teen contestants, both at state/country pageants and the International pageant, are so outgoing and dedicated to working with their platform. It makes me very proud to be a part of this pageant system!

Also congratulations to the new 2014 Arkansas International titleholders! I’m honored to have you three represent my state and I know you’ll have a wonderful reign!

This was a wonderfully spent weekend and I’m so happy to be able to take part in this pageant. I know I’ll be back every year to volunteer not only at the state pageant, but the International pageant.

All my love,

Haley Pontius 
Miss Teen International 2013