Friday, February 28, 2014

Back to School for Red Out

It could have been a tough crowd. Talking with 900 junior high students could have been challenging, considering it was only 8 o’clock in the morning and they were about to listen to a 40-minutes presentation about heart disease!

But, instead, I discovered these 7th and 8th graders at Wilmette Jr. High were attentive and interested in understanding heart health. In fact, just after the first bell, the school had a moment of silence, recited the Pledge of Allegiance and was given a new fact about heart disease and stroke. Today they learned how heart disease affects 43-million women every year.

I asked students who had family with heart disease, or someone who had suffered a heart attack or stroke to raise their hands.. Nearly every hand was raised.

Allison Neswold, who is from the regional American Heart Association, and I were invited to take part in the school’s Red Out. We spent the morning speaking with the students about ways they can be healthier and why they need to create solid healthy habits now. Granted, most of these kids are reliant on the choices their parents make for them. So these are also tips and advice we hope the students will take home to their families.

These bright young students were so enthusiastic and kind, especially the young men who wanted an autograph. (They were so sweet.) It makes me feel even more optimistic that our younger generations will learn from our mistakes and they will take better care of themselves while finding new ways to help us all do the same.

Be the change!

Amy Gregorio
Your Mrs. International

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Go Red Luncheon

Nearly 300 people came together to raise more than $100,000 to fight heart disease, the leading health threat for Western NY’s women. We always hear the “1 in 3 women…” statistic, however in Western NY it is a scary “1 in 2 women”.

The health expo allowed guests to be pampered with spa treatments, cooking and exercise demonstrations, and health screenings. I was able to get some additional education regarding heart health and even learned how to perform Hands Only CPR!

The presentation started with the Heroine of the Heart award. This year the award went to high school junior, Molly Budzinski. Molly brought CPR training to her school district and now 1,700 of her classmates can now respond in an emergency situation. Senator Mark Grisanti presented the award and declared February 13, 2014 Molly Budzinski Day! How exciting and so well deserved for this young volunteer.

I was sitting with a young woman named Aisha, a vibrant doctorate student. When I found out that she was the featured speaker I was blown away. Aisha overcame heart disease when she received a heart transplant ten years ago. She was just 24 years old when she received her diagnosis – a frightening note as I have now eclipsed that age. Her story was impactful and inspirational. These are the women who remind us why we cannot give up this fight

Hands Only CPR in action!

Getting my blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood glucose levels tested – I am right on target for all!

Posing with the poster featuring my good friend Carin – a stroke survivor

The meal for the event, how cute is this heart-shaped chicken!?

Seek Happiness,


Monday, February 24, 2014

National Salute to Veteran Patients

Every year, during the week of Valentines Day, Veterans Hospitals across the nation welcome their communities to salute the Veterans.

The National Salute to Veteran Patients provides Americans all across the nation an opportunity to let our nation’s Veterans know that they are not forgotten. Local celebrities, elected officials, school children and several other groups visit during this event to show their love and appreciation for the Veterans.

They ask that whether you are an individual or with a group, you come to participate in a variety of activities at the VA medical centers.

There were open-house activities where the community leaders and the public passed out Valentine’s Day cards to veteran patients. The activities and events included special ward visits and valentine distributions; photo opportunities; school essay contests; special recreation activities and Veteran recognition programs.

The Veteran’s Hospital’s hope is that through this event we can accomplish three things: everyone will pay tribute and express appreciation to Veterans, there will be an increase in community awareness of the role of the VA medical center, and it will encourage citizens to visit hospitalized Veterans and to become involved as volunteers.

Their laugher and smiles warmed my heart and the look of joy on each veteran’s face when we walked into their hospital room made it all worthwhile. They were so thankful for our visit even if it was only a few minutes long for each one.


Haley Pontius

Friday, February 21, 2014

Go Red Total Makeover

Go Red for Women has been taking action for 10 years now. There's been much accomplished over the last decade. 34% fewer women are dying of heart disease each year. And we know women who Go Red are more likely to make healthy choices. In fact, 89% will make at least one healthy change in their life.

This year Go Red along with their long-time national sponsor, Macy’s, decided to kick off Heart Month with a Total Makeover Challenge. Beyond hair and make-up, this makeover was about updating health habits. Chicago was one of seven cities targeted for this new event. I was thrilled to have my dear friend, and Mrs. Illinois International 2010-Jennifer Naida, accompany me. She has been involved with AHA for years. We had a wonderful time seeing everyone. And all the lovely ladies came decked out in their red, ready to be made over!

Over 250-women registered for the event. Each were given passports to be stamped at different sections of the enormous Macy’s. The areas offered ladies healthy cooking tips, CPR training, health screenings and plenty of goodies along the way. Everyone then turned in their stamped passports to be eligible for prizes such as a $250.00 gift card from Macys.

Jennifer Naida and me

Be the change!

Amy Gregorio
Your Mrs. International

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Go Red Proclamation Event

I was pleased to be invited to the Erie County Clerk’s Office to attend a very special aspect of Wear Red Day. The presentation focused on the “why” it is important to be aware of cardiac issues and why it’s necessary to continue funding this research, the “how” we can prevent or recognize symptoms in ourselves and our loved ones, and the “where” we are going to ensure that heart disease is a thing of the past.

We heard from three local female doctors: Dr. Glenna Bett, who discussed the scary reality that we lose 1/3 women to cardiac issues = 1,100/day. Dr. Gale Burstein, Erie County Health Commisioner, issued the proclamation of Go Red Day, and cardiologist Dr. Meesala discussed how we can reverse heart risks in our lives. It was so empowering to see the women of this area come together to shed light and end this terrible disease.

We also heard from Kelly Rummings who is a two-time heart attack survivor. She knew heart disease ran in her family, and when she addressed her concerns with her doctor he said she was too young and not to worry. That SAME month she suffered her first heart attack. THAT is why Wear Red Day and the Go Red For Women campaign is so vital. We as patients need to inform our doctors of our concerns, our family history, and our risk factors to ensure proper prevention and care before it is too late.

Before the day came to an end, a check for $348,000 was awarded by the American Heart Association to the research departments of the University at Buffalo to continue studies in cardiac muscle regulation and the aging heart.

It is important to share that two very special statistics. In the past decade 330 fewer women are dying each day thanks to awareness, prevention activities, and research – and in total more than 327,000 women have been saved from heart disease. This is what we are working toward, seeing these numbers dramatically change in a positive direction. Let’s keep working to save the women in our lives and to save ourselves.

With two-time heart attack survivor, Kelly

Seek Happiness,


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Tony Bowls

A few weekends ago, while I was in Dallas, TX for a Go Red For Women I had the amazing opportunity to meet the famous dress designer Tony Bowls! I must admit when I first met him, I was a little star struck.

Tony is an inspiration to so many people around the world, but especially to me because he came from a small town in Arkansas and did something unbelievable. He’s proof that no matter what, if you put your mind to it, you can achieve anything. The sky is the limit!

Did I mention that I absolutely love his dresses! They’re so beautiful and can really show off your personality though them.

To say the least, it was an honor to meet one of my idols. I do hope I’ll have the opportunity to see him again and of course to wear some of his dresses!


Haley Pontius

Monday, February 17, 2014

Breaking Records On Wear Red Day

February is National Heart Month, dedicated to bringing awareness to cardiovascular disease through the Go Red for Women campaign. And earlier this month was "National Wear Red Day." If you were on Facebook or Twitter, you likely saw many of us decked out in red.

More than 200 of us are ready to break some records!

I began it by heading in to the WGN studios. WGN is seen nationally each morning with a cast that is…lively and a bit unorthodox in their approach to morning news. It was a perfect place to help break a Guinness World Record. I gathered with others from the American Heart Association to help break a record for “The Most People Doing Lunges at One Time.” And, yes, there is such a record!

Let the lunging begin!

There were timers, stewards and several LIVE cameras watching us doing form perfect lunges (we had to rotate legs and touch knees to the ground to count) for a minute. Zany? Of course! But WGN helped spread the message about heart health and the American Heart Association. So the lunges and bruised knees are well worth it! Still, the day was young and I had children to dress in red and a horse that needed to be heart healthy as well!

Ali is ready to “check” heart disease"

Quincy is helps me get in a heart healthy workout.

Be the change!

Amy Gregorio
Your Mrs. International

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Dothan Take 2

If you have been following the blogs all along, you’ll know that my first trip to Dothan was a dream come true where I was completely star struck to work with known experts, Joey and Clay. This trip was completely different. It felt like coming to visit friends, and we just happened to have a photo shoot while we were there.

It was like a big party as Ms. Mary, Ms. Susan Botek (official graphic designer of the International Pageants), Amy, Joey, Clay, and Ms. Teri were all able to spend some fun, quality time together. We celebrated the year we have had so far and looked forward to what’s left to come.

As always, Joey Retherford at the Competitive Image picked out the most gorgeous wardrobe options. I am amazed at his keen eye as he never fails to pick items that I would never think to try, but work perfectly with my coloring and shape. Clay Spann and Ms. Teri went to work making my hair and makeup look perfect while giving me lots of tips and tricks to use at home.

I caught a glimpse of some of the photos we have taken and had a very humbling moment. I can’t believe how beautiful they are and a part of me feels like I don’t even deserve to look as glamorous as Clay and Joey make me look and feel! The most magical thing about being in Dothan is that our International Pageant family makes me feel just as special when I’m made up as when I walk in the door fresh faced and in sweats.

Among the beautiful faces of International Pageant Titleholders from years past. 

Seek Happiness,


Friday, February 14, 2014

Go Red Total Makeover

This past weekend I was thrilled to be asked to attend the Go Red For Women event: Go Red Total Makeover, at Macy’s in Fort Worth, Texas. The event took place the weekend of National Wear Red Day and as you can imagine, I was decked out in the color red for about three days straight.

I had an absolute blast working at this event! The Go Red For Women affiliate in Texas set up the event so that hundreds of people could learn life saving skills for free and in a fun way. All across the Macy’s store where stations with different activities such as CPR training, Zumba, healthy cooking, and even a station to check your blood pressure!

Music played through the whole store and the day was full of laughter and smiles. I signed who knows how many autographs, took well over a hundred pictures with people, and even a few selfies were involved.

Hundreds of people participated in the event and learned easy tricks to staying healthy and ways to avoid getting a heart problem. The event was a huge, huge, huge success!! And had we only reached one person I believe it would still have been a success.

Did I mention it was also my dad’s birthday? But unfortunately he wasn’t able to come with us so I sent him a little message. 


Haley Rose Pontius

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Perfect Paperwork Please

The judges are given your bio and platform page well before the competition week. Personally, I love this because they can and they do research that information. Therefore, I wouldn’t suggest exaggerating your information, as that is not the first impression you want to make! I had the chance to speak with some of my judges following the final night of Mrs. International. They did research (which I knew during the one-on-one interviews) and said there was paperwork that stood out and paperwork that left them disappointed due to simple mistakes.

This is the first impression they will have of you. While many contestants keep their paperwork under lock and key, I have seen various platform pages now and then. They are not all created equal. Some are colorful and designed like eye-catching ads. The information is kept simple but is effective. Others are wordy and read like a full-page, single-spaced novel. Information overload. It’s my opinion a platform page is the introduction to your interview and creates a picture of you for the judges. It sets up questions for a great interview if done correctly. You have five minutes with each judge; so make the most of it!

Every detail, such as the colors used, creates an impact. Blue and red were dominant on mine as it kept with the branding of CASA.

I would suggest your page briefly states why you are involved with your platform. It should include what you want to accomplish on behalf of your platform. What is your plan? What you have already done is important…to an extent. But, what you plan to do with the title and how you will do it…is critical.

Please don’t hesitate to find someone who understands both the International system and platform pages. They can help you craft the message you want to convey to judges. I preferred using an outside opinion to help me condense the incredible amount of info I would’ve loved to include. Some information makes sense to you, but it may seem confusing to someone not familiar with your platform or organization.

Someone who has created many platform pages is Susan Botek, of Botek Productions. Susan comes highly recommended by the International Pageants system. She was gracious enough to allow me to share Shannon Devine’s (Mrs. International 2010) platform page.

Susan designed Shannon’s platform page with specific pictures. Sometimes a photo tells a story better than words ever could and it shows how adoption created a beautiful forever family. As you can see, Shannon’s page offers such an impactful message.

It is worth the time to make your message clear, concise and eye-catching. If I had to choose between paperwork or wardrobe, I’d go with paperwork as the priority. After all, it is the first impression for those deciding who will get the job.

Be the change!

Amy Gregorio
Your Mrs. International

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

ReFashionista Planning Meeting

Last year I teamed up with the Salvation Army to introduce a new event called the ReFashionista Challenge. Western NY has so many educational programs for fashion and design, so the event encouraged designers (and creative individuals of all experience-levels) to venture into any Salvation Army Thrift Store, find some interesting pieces, and repurpose them into something fabulous. Entrants were judged by industry professionals based on creativity, construction, fit, and the transformation of the original items.

The winner of the ReFashionista Challenge will receive a trip to NYC to meet with established fashion industry professionals for design and career guidance – pretty awesome if you ask me! This year’s event will take place on March 4th and I am glad to announce that I will be a co-emcee again this year. I think it will be SO cool to be able to revisit this event and share my “big” crown with the audience that knew me first as Miss New York International.

At the planning meeting for the event we discussed strengths of last year’s event and how we can build to make it even better. We brainstormed positive and effective exhibitors to make the experience even richer for guests, and also how we will work with local media to promote it. Looking forward to the big day!

Presenting last year’s winner along with CW Star and my co-emcee, Matt Snyder.

Event Flyer for the 2014 ReFashionista Challenge!

Seek Happiness,


Monday, February 10, 2014

Survivor Gallery Unveiling for Go Red for Women

I was so happy to attend the 2014 Arkansas Survivor Gallery Unveiling for Go Red For Women this past week.

It was wonderful to support and celebrate all of the women who have conquered heart disease. I had the opportunity to meet ten amazing and inspiring women who tell their heart story to raise awareness and save Arkansas women from their No. 1 killer.

The ceremony consisted of several speakers, including the First Lady Ginger Beebe. Each of the women being honored were brought out one at a time and her story of triumph was told. The women ranged from every age to every shape and size, showing proof that heart disease does not discriminate in women.

The youngest of the survivors, Brooklyn Loring, is merely four years old.

My favorite part of the day was speaking with a young lady who has the same heart disease as my father and being able to relate to her. Well… that, and casually running into the Governor on the way out. That was pretty swell too!

I love these events because of the empowerment that comes with them. These women are not letting a heart condition slow them down and it’s inspiring to see that.

All my love,

Haley Rose Pontius

Friday, February 7, 2014

Girls' Night with Disney

Initially, it may not have been my first idea of how to spend a Friday night…at the United Center while 10 more inches of snow was falling outside. (Yes, here in Chicago, fondly now known as Chiberia, it has not stopped snowing since…well, I honestly cannot remember) However, this involved my 5-year old daughter Ali. She has been stashing random notes and flyers in my tote for the past month about this blessed event. And given my many recent events, meetings and travel, she and our son, Johnny, have been patient and understanding that “Mom,” has a job as Mrs. International. I owed her one and so I put this night on ice…just the two of us and our friends from Disney. And it was so worth it! The sparkly costumes and music was all Ali. Even Mickey wore rhinestones!


Of course Ali was enthralled with the show itself, but I had the best time watching her take it all in. Snow White even stopped by during the show to present Ali with a rose! It is now carefully placed next to the fish tank in her bedroom, where I am sure it will remain…forever. And I will forever remember our girls’ night-on ice. She is growing up far too fast as I know these days are precious.

The two of us with “THE ROSE.” The making of a sweet memory.

Be the change!

Amy Gregorio
Your Mrs. International

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Jacksonville: Men Go Red – Heart Ride

I may be apprehensive about getting on a motorcycle, but I have no qualms about talking about heart health! When the American Heart Association – First Coast Chapter invited Mrs. International, Amy Gregorio, and I to help them kick off the inaugural “Heart Ride Goes Red” I knew I just had to be there! This was a special event for many, many reasons.

First, as the American Heart Association is the official philanthropic partner of the International Pageants and Jacksonville is our new home what better way to start that relationship on the right foot (or wheel!). Second, the Go Red For Women campaign is typically viewed as a for women/by women initiative. Considering that Heart Disease and Stroke are the #1 killers of women each year (you know the stats, more than ALL cancers combined) it is SO important to share the awareness and strength with our mothers, sisters, daughters, aunts, and friends. However, this particular event was hosted by a very special group – Men Go Red. The men in Jacksonville see the need for funding, research, and education to advocate on behalf of the women in their lives.

Even though it may have been a chilly day by Jacksonville standards, we were up bright and early and headed to Channel 4 and First Coast News to invite riders and residents alike to join us. Katie, the Communications Director for Jacksonville AHA, was such a fabulous guide and kept us on track and on schedule.

The event itself was fun, innovative, and thorough – a recipe for successful future Rides. We took photos with watchers, riders, and had a blast exploring the Adamec Harley Davidson store with “bikes” new and old.

With Thumper, the official mascot of AHA First Coast (best heart name ever in my opinion!)

Amy and I with Missy, the Adamec Social Media Expert – We LOVED our Harley Davidson jackets they picked out for us to wear for the day

This purple sparkly motorcycle was right up my alley and it went perfectly with my Miss International sash!

Michael Mayo, coordinator of the event and local hospital director giving introductory remarks

Spinning the Eagle Radio wheel for good measure

Some American Heart Association staff, bikers, and friends

Seek Happiness,


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Toned to Win

Recently International Pageants shared the news that they have brought on AT Dunn of Toned to Win as the Official Fitness Trainer. As well as Chelsea Cooley Altman (Miss USA 2005), also of Toned to Win, as the Official Runway and Walking Coach for the Mrs., Miss and Miss Teen International Pageants! What a wonderful addition to this system!

I’m so very excited about this because I know that they will be wonderful for the International system and that they will be able to help so many of our contestants! I highly recommend using them in your preparation for the pageant.

Twitter: @TonedToWin

I look forward to officially meeting both of them and until then I can’t wait!

Much love,

Haley Pontius

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Ride for Your Heart

Bright and early Saturday morning was the time to kick off the very first Ride for Your Heart event in Jacksonville as a part of Men Go Red for Women. Jesse Ladoue, Miss International, and I met with Katie Seay from the American Heart Association’s First Coast office who was so kind to coordinate our trip as well as escort us while in Jacksonville. Thank you Katie! We started the morning at News4.

We then drove over to their competition, First Coast News to talk about the Ride for Your Heart event.

From there, we headed over to Adamec Harley Davidson on Baymeadows. It is one of the family’s dealerships that include a long history with motorcycles.

Although my husband has a motorcycle, I am not one you will often find on the back of it. I have a healthy respect for motorcycles and for the pavement they ride upon. Still, Jesse and I were able to give the cycle simulator a go.

It’s a bit like patting your head and rubbing your belly at the same time.

And it was riders up! Cyclists did an hour-long loop through the city followed by a cookout with music. First Coast AHA was so hospitable and generous as was Adamec Harley. I'm sure each year that the tradition of this event will continue to thrive. I look forward to seeing everyone again very soon, if not before July.

Be the Change!

Amy Gregorio
Your Mrs. International

Go Red First Coast