Thursday, January 30, 2014

Balancing It All

It’s not an unknown fact that I am a busy person. Classmates ask me what I did over the weekend and I have ask them to be more specific. Friends ask when I have free time to just hang out and I have to check my calendar and schedule in them a day.

As crazy as it all might sound, I wouldn’t trade a minute of it.

It’s my senior year in high school, which means ACT tests, scholarship applications, college visits and lots of homework. Along with my job as Miss Teen International, my work with several different organizations, and my social life, I have a lot on my plate. Not to mention making time for the basics like attending church and going to the gym several days a week.

People have asked me “How do you do it?” and it’s as simple as that old saying “If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life.” Being Miss Teen International is a dream job and I love every minute of it. The organizations that I work with are my pride and joy. As for school, I’m taking it all in piece by piece and in the mean time I’m sitting back and enjoying the ride.

Being me isn’t always easy, but it’s always an adventure.

Much love,

Haley Pontius

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Jacksonville Arrival

I found my way from chilly (okay, fa-reezing) Chicago, IL to Jacksonville, FL for the first Ride for Your Heart event in Jacksonville. It was also a chance to also lay eyes on where I would later pass on my title this summer.

After hearing so many incredible details about this coming July, I could barely stand the suspense! I have never been to Jacksonville. And now, I am surprised I had never been. The airport is clean and up to date and the baggage arrives quickly. After all the traveling I have done, I promise you these are important details.

The Omni hotel is lovely with great accommodations. I will tell you the rooms at night do not offer a ton of light, BUT the bathrooms have terrific lighting. The closet space is pretty standard. There is a full-length mirror on a wall. Things to keep in mind should you be a contetsant. And, ladies (and family and friends heading to JAX) it is directly across the street from the impressive Times Union Center where the pageant will be held.


This video does it little justice, but at least you can get a feel for the seating and staging of one of the theaters inside. They were so gracious and welcomed us to tour the building while its three large theaters were in performance.


Jesse (Miss International) and I decided the best way to try out some of the local restaurants in one evening was to try a bit of each at The Jacksonville Landing which is across the street as well. Given a very early wake up the next morning, we sampled a little bit of a little bit including Fionn MacCool’s Irish Restaurant and Pub.

Stuffed mushrooms and a giant crab cake from Vito’s Italian Café.

Nachos Supreme from Cinco de Mayo.

But I was also given some great recommendations from a Go Red board member. If you are going to take the time to travel, why not explore? And both of these areas are said to only be a few miles away from the hotel.

San Marco: Taverna, Bistro AIX and European Street Café

Avondale: The Brick, Orsay and Black Sheep

Be the change,

Amy Gregorio
Your Mrs. International

Monday, January 27, 2014

The Omni Hotel - Jacksonville

I had the opportunity to explore the new home of the International Pageants in Jacksonville, FL and I must say we are all in for a fun and exciting change in scenery. Before arriving I had so many questions in my mind! Will the theatre be as close and convenient? Will there be lots of options for visiting family and friends to see and visit (both within walking distance and also requires a vehicle)? Will the hotel staff be as friendly and helpful? The answer to all of these is a resounding YES.

Please enjoy my photo tour of the Omni and immediately surrounding areas!

I ran to my room window to immediately check out the view and I was not disappointed! Look at that gorgeous waterfront view. I must mention that the sunset over the bridge was absolutely breathtaking.

I arrived two days early when I went to Chicago in order to watch the Mrs. International Pageant and have a full day to unwind and relax. LOOK AT THIS ROOFTOP POOL! What a great way to enjoy a free day… and a wonderful reason for your family and friends to stop in early too. The cabana area also invites those who may not want to swim or soak up sun, but sit outside, read, and enjoy the warmth.

You may not want to, but if you turn your back to the rooftop pool and look down to the street below you’ll see…. The site of the pageants, the Times Union Center. So, yes! It is just as close and convenient for travel to and from on rehearsal and production days!

The fitness center is also important considering many contestants will be utilizing this space daily to keep up their hard work until this point. I was impressed with the amount of nautilus machines, treadmills (fyi- there are more than the photo shows, there was just someone running in that area and I wanted to respect their privacy), and amenities.

As far as dining and entertainment, The Jacksonville Landing is about a block away and is filled with shops and restaurants of all types. The waterfront view is really lovely. I loved the amount of small businesses in the development and took advantage of chatting with locals about their craftsmanship.

I was truly overwhelmed with the appreciation and support of the entire community. They are so looking forward to having us and are making our comfort a priority. See you there come July!

Seek Happiness,


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Central Arkansas Heart Ball

Last weekend, I was honored to be invited to the Central Arkansas Heart Ball along with Miss Arkansas Intl and Mrs. Arkansas Intl. The Heart Ball is the largest annual black-tie fundraising gala in the state of Arkansas, raising funds to fight the number one killer of all Arkansans and Americans – heart disease.

Since 2000, we have collectively raised more than $9.1 million to support our mission to save lives and each year there are close to 1,000 people who attend this important event to make that happen.

Not to mention, I was ecstatic to get to wear my new evening gown from Competitive Image! I am in love with it!

The event’s activities included an award presentation, the Sweetheart presentations, live and silent auctions, as well as dinner and dancing. I’m glad I was able to attend and share in this wonderful event.


Haley Pontius 
Miss Teen International

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Dothan: Take 2

Can you believe it’s already time to shoot the cover for the Mrs. International program? I have a stack of the programs from the past several years. Each cover is as unique as the other, but all have been shot by Clay Spann.

Cover with Mrs. International 2010-Shannon Devine

Cover with Mrs. International 2007-Rebekah Negrete.

I was happy to meet up and fly in with Miss International, Jesse Ladoue. It gave us a chance to catch up with Mary Richardson. Mel and Mary Richardson are the directors of International Pageants. I also got to know Susan Botek who is a staff member and member of the International family. As an owner of “Bow Tech Productions,” she has the daunting task of helping the Richardson’s design the programs.

Master magician and photographer, Clay Spann. I’m sure I exhausted him by the end of the day.

Joey, me, Clay and Mary after the shoot was completed.

Joey from Competitive Image has such glamorous gowns and they are snatched up as quickly as they arrive. With the help of Terri, I was transformed. I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the April Trunk show! The cover won’t be revealed until July. And I can’t wait to see what final shots have been selected. But that will also signals the end of my year as Mrs. International and so I think I am fine waiting a bit before seeing it.

Be the change!

Amy Gregorio
Your Mrs. International

Friday, January 24, 2014

Must-Have: A 365-day Devotional

As you read in my New Year’s Resolutions, I want to wake up every morning and connect with God: hear his words and feel his presence. Thanks to Miss Teen International 2013 Haley Pontius and her thoughtful and appropriate Christmas gift I can do just that. I’ve had devotionals in the past, but something about this one just speaks to me so much louder. It’s called, “Devotions for the God Girl” written by Hayley DiMarco. The writing is perfect for both young adult and adult women. Each day shares a short Bible verse and an parallel to every day life. I love that I can look back at it in the evening and actually read the entire Bible passage if the day’s lesson was especially meaningful.

I highly recommending getting a book like this, and there are so many to choose from based on your tastes. Another that I have read that I loved is Joel Osteen’s “Your Best Life Begins Each Morning”. As we start a new day let’s remember that we are called to serve.

Seek Happiness,


Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Life, Loss & Faith

“Faith does not make things easy, it makes them possible.”

It is so true. I was reminded of that this week. I am heartbroken for a friend and found myself having many conversations with God. Right now, only HE knows the answers to questions like, “Why?”

I reflect on how excited my husband and I were for the arrival of both of our children. Nervous and anxious, but overjoyed. There was no more beautiful sound than those bird-like cries as they each took their first breath of life while we welcomed them into the world.

Our friend, who we consider a family member, and her husband, did not get that this week. 40 weeks of planning and organizing and patiently waiting, but it was not meant to be. Life and death aren’t fair. And I must believe HE has bigger plans for this tiny angel.

I have learned so much from our friend’s strength along with the strength of her husband and their families. I find myself angry at times for what she and her family has had to go through this week and for what is yet to come…when the silence becomes deafening…when someone makes an insensitive comment like, “You’re young. You can have more children.”…When she is hit out of nowhere by an unexpected reminder.

Our stoic friend understands just conceiving a child is a miracle as is the nine months of pregnancy. She is facing this time in the present and head-on. It is a testament of how family, friends and faith make it possible to get through something so…well, there are just no words to help…just lots of prayers to heal.

Be the change,

Amy Gregorio
Your Mrs. International

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Blood Pressure

Remember when you were young and blood pressure machines were something to do while your mom was grocery shopping? I can vividly recall the monitor tightening around my tiny arm and blinking numbers that could have been hieroglyphics. Until recently when the doctor or nurse would tell me my blood pressure after a reading I still didn’t much know what it all meant. 

 However, as I’ve gotten older and through our partnerships with the American Heart Association and Go Red For Women I understand the importance to not only understanding the difference between “systolic” and “diastolic”, but how to maintain heart health if these numbers do ever seek dangerous levels. I found this infographic posted by the American Heart Association so helpful and I am able to communicate this better to those who ask me about the importance of our partnership.

Are you following the American Heart Association on Pinterest yet?

Seek Happiness,


Monday, January 20, 2014

Program Book Photo Shoot

I have bragged on Clay Spann and Competitive Imagine many times, but I feel the need to do it again. Last weekend I traveled to Dothan, Alabama for a photo shoot for the official 2014 program book cover.

Once again Clay and Joey have blown me away. Clay’s talent when it comes to make-up, hair, and photography is astounding and Joey has the most beautiful dresses and knows just what to put you in to make you glow.

Oh! And did I mention the awesome, new custom hair extensions I received curtsey of Thomas Dunn Studios. It’s absolutely amazing. I’m never going to take them out.

I’m so happy I was able to come back to Dothan again and work with these wonderful people. They definitely make me feel like a queen!

This year’s program books are going to be AMAZING!!! I can’t wait for you all to see them!


Haley Pontius

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Bikes for Tikes

“The Shelter for Abused Women and Children,” in Naples, Florida is a wonderful safe haven. It’s mainly supported by fundraising events AND their, “Options Thrift Shoppe.”

I always think of those who are able to summon the raw courage needed to leave an unsafe home. One of the most dangerous times for a person in an abusive relationship is when they try to leave it. I admire those who do get out because through CASA, I have seen the aftermath of abuse on children. I’ve also been touched by the stories of survival from some of our Mrs. International classmates. To be a person in that situation can only be horrifying and unpredictable. Suddenly, they are in a strange place and they have few, if any of their belongings as many people have to quickly escape.

Ready to roll.

Ali felt it was very important we include some toys and crafts in the baskets.

So my family and I brought a couple of bikes for children at their undisclosed shelter. Most “safe havens,” are able to provide necessities, but other “normal,” items are harder to come by so we also organized baskets of items we thought they could use. Consider donating hair dryers, curling irons, full size hair care products, paper products, feminine hygiene supplies, toothbrushes and toothpaste. New linens, towels and cleaning products are other must have items. And many children flee their home without needed school supplies. But do call ahead as specific wish lists can vary depending on space.

Be the change!

Amy Gregorio
Your Mrs. International

Their website is extremely well organized and a wealth of information. They even offer an emergency “Exit,” for those who may need life-saving information without being caught.

Friday, January 17, 2014

New Orleans Culture

I had the most incredible time in New Orleans during my visit with AmeriCorps and the Notre Dame Mission Volunteers. In addition to the warmth of everyone I met, I so enjoyed hearing about the unique culture full of joie du vivre.

I loved seeing trees lining the streets littered with sparkling Mardi Gras beads. I thought it was so special to hear that they were not placed there strategically, but have accumulated after so many years of celebrations and parades. It was as though they were enjoying the spirit of that day all year round.

Walking through the famous French Quarter we saw artists on every corner displaying their talents with paintings, drawings, sculptures, and even art made out of beads. However, nothing compared to the brass bands lining streets, playing fun and upbeat songs. I couldn’t help but stop and enjoy their sounds and feel their energy and pride in their city.

I stopped to take in a gorgeous view of the St. Louis Cathedral. Built in 1727 it is the oldest cathedral in all of North America. It truly is breathtaking with its Spanish Renaissance architecture. When I turned around, despite the overcast and drizzly weather we had on our sightseeing day, there was an amazing view of the Mississippi River. The Crescent City Connection cantilever bridge is among the five largest of its kind in the entire world. During Hurricane Katrina, all toll collection on the CCC halted in order to speed evacuation of residents.

Overall, it was the spirit of New Orleans that spoke to me the loudest. The residents are so proud of their history and of their ability to overcome adversity. There is so much rich history here and I was amazed at how well preserved the traditions have not only survived, but thrive.

The Fathers of Jazz are immortalized all over the city

The CCC spanning across the Mississippi River

Homes reflecting Spanish architecture were beautifully decorated and illuminated

A bride tosses her bouquet into bustling French Quarter below

The beautiful St. Louis Cathedral

I couldn’t leave New Orleans without having some trademark catfish! 

Seek Happiness,


Thursday, January 16, 2014

AHA's CPR Training Program

Recently the American Heart Association has been looking for representatives to teach CPR to students in schools all across the nation. I’m honored to say I was recently chosen and will be going into schools throughout my state to teach this lifesaving skill.

Because an emergency can occur at anytime, the American Heart Association’s CPR training programs help to increase survival rates by training ordinary people to respond quickly. The sad truth is most people don’t survive a cardiac arrest. Four to six minutes is the window of opportunity for someone to act before it’s too late, but fewer than one-third of cardiac arrest victims get CPR from someone nearby.

Our hope is that this program will deeply affect our nation and that CPR will become a skill that everyone knows at heart. I can’t wait to get started and I look forward to every minute of teaching.

All my love,

Haley Pontius

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Naples or Bust

We refer to this as, “Surviving Santa.” Ah, the memories from 2009.

Luckily, the kids are no longer alarmed by the man with the beard.

I admit, this Christmas I felt a bit like Ali in 2009. The holidays were a blur of activities… Winter Sings, classroom parties, get-togethers…just surviving the end of the school year felt like an organizational accomplishment! It probably didn’t help we were leaving town the day after Christmas, but it was a trip we look forward to when winter strikes. We made our way from the snow of Chicago to the warm sand in Naples, Florida.

My little beach bums.

John organized a fishing trip for us along the bay. Several sheephead were caught and I even reeled in a puffer fish. We rang in the New Year early. I was conked out by 9:30pm. HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

Bloat, is that you?

NYE at Bice. It’s a fantastic (and child approved) Italian restaurant in Old Naples.

We were one of the few who could return to the Polar Vortex in Chiberia…as everyone else was delayed or stranded. To go from 70 degrees to -45 degrees (the wind chill) in 24-hours was a cold dose of reality! But being back home is worth the front door being frozen shut. And it was…

Be the change,

Amy Gregorio
Your Mrs. International

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Gowns I Love!

As a pageant girl, gown shopping never stops (whether I need one or not!). It is so easy to get lost in all the beautiful colors and designs that are introduced each season. I picked a few of the looks that caught my eye from my four favorite designers and share why I think they would be excellent choices for the pageant stage. Lucky for us, The Competitive Image works with each of these incredibly talented designers to allow contestants access to their stunning collections so as queens and contestants we can look and feel our absolute best!

Sherri Hill

I love the combination of sophistication and daring that the high neckline and low back offer this style. Plus, the draping at the back adds a romantic and feminine touch. There are so many positives to this gown: the band at the waist would accentuate and enhance beautiful curves and the column-like silhouette will make anyone look taller.


I am gaga over this dress - I feel like it is so Hollywood Glam. The low neckline and open back details still look demure paired with the long sleeves. I adore how the beading give the illusion that it is simply placed on the wearer. Plus, can you imagine this gown sparkling on a stage?

Mac Duggal

Talk about simple elegance. Clean lines, simple silhouette, yet details to make your jaw drop. The Queen Anne collar is so regal in my opinion, and yet the beading is just enough to keep it balanced without looking overdone and dated. The white and gold is a winning combination.

Tony Bowls

How stunning is this red? It’s bold, eye-catching, and oozes confidence. The jersey fabric would show off all of your hard work at the gym and the shoulder detail pulls the attention towards the face beautifully. I love the draping detail on the back and feel like it is a very unexpected touch.

What do you think of these?

Seek Happiness,


Monday, January 13, 2014

International Queens in the News

Miss Atlantic States International - Andi DeField

* Miss Atlantic States International pictured at the MIAMI Fights breast cancer awareness event (Modern Luxury magazine)

Miss Australia International 2014 - Natalie Assad

Mrs. Delaware International 2014 - Kamika Bell

Mrs. Florida International 2014 - Teresa Sheffield

* Teresa Sheffield: Clear lungs create a clear future (SunSentinel)

Mrs. Great Plains International 2014 - Maggi Thorne

* Maggi Thorne: 'Nothing is Insurmountable' (Nebraska Athletics Website)

* Maggi Thorne Television Interview (Omaha Morning Blend)

* Maggi Thorne Mrs. Great Plains International Spokesperson (Soles4Souls website)

* Mrs. Great Plains International pictured at the Big Red Runway (Metro Magazine)

*  2013 World’s Toughest Mudder Interviews (Obstacle Racing Media Website)

* Nebraska Spartan Sprint 2013 Official Video

* World's Toughest Mudder 2013 | Official Video

Mrs. India International 2013 - Amita Motwani

* Beautiful in the inside and on the outside, psychologist Amita Motwani bagged the Mrs. India International 2013 (The Times of India)

Mrs. Kansas International 2014 - Kimberly McDowell

* Kimberly McDowell Models for Miracles Spokesperson (KAKE TV)

* WSU students, professor join forces to raise money for CMNH (Wichita State University website)

Mrs. Mexico International 2013 - Gisel Merrifield

* Mormon mom, Mrs. Mexico, sticks to her modesty standards in international pageant (Deseret News & LDS Living Magazine)

Mrs. New Zealand International 2014 - Elena Turner 

* Pageant winner has beauty and brains (Auckland City Harbour News)

Miss South Africa International 2013 - Shajar Khan

Mrs. Virginia International 2014 - Cheryl Nelson

Mrs. West Virginia International 2013 - Julie Warden