This weekend was time for “Bourbon and the Bayou,” which is a Fat Friday event held in Kentucky. It included a Mardi Gras theme including live music, food, and a bourbon tasting. There were also silent and live auctions along with Mardi Gras entertainment.
“Bourbon and the Bayou,” is one of two big annual FUNdraisers for CASA of Lexington, Kentucky. I was more than happy to help. Thank you to my former WJHL colleague Lisa Kaplan (now Doctrow) for including me in the efforts. I was able to be a part of the evening. On the auction block was, “The Queen’s Jewels,” thanks to a fabulous necklace and matching earrings.
All proceeds from the event go to provide direct service to the children served and that is worth more than any precious jewels to me. I hope the winner enjoys them!
I previously shared that I was on the planning committee for the 2nd Annual ReFashionista Challenge to benefit the Salvation Army. I was honored to be asked to emcee again with the regional CW-Star, Matt Snyder. The event went off with great success as we saw exponential growth from last year.
We are all blessed with such different talents and to see what these designers were able to accomplish with such interesting raw materials was truly amazing. One contestant even created a fringe skirt from old VHS tape – so cool! The winner of this year’s event created a blouson tank top out of a boldly patterned silk shirt and a pencil skirt out of an old crew neck sweatshirt. The icing on the cake was the amazing detail on the back hem of the skirt where the integrity of the sweatshirt collar was kept in tact. It was such a smart and clever design choice!
Some other special guests that attended were designers from Aspire, an organization that provides support for developmentally disabled children and adults. They strutted their creations across the runway with such pride and joy. It was so heartwarming to see the camaraderie of all of the designers to assist our local Salvation Army.
Matt and I getting ready to start the show!
A great moment with Rachel from Aspire, Major Applin, and our winner – Rachel Thomas
As you all know, the Academy Awards were earlier this month! Typically I watch the show from my sofa, but this year I was invited to the Night At The Oscar’s event in Little Rock, AR!
Upon arriving, guests walked the red carpet and many were interviewed about the event and the award show, including me! We discussed which movies and actors I thought were going to win and details about some of the auctions that were taking place that evening.
While there, Miss Arkansas Intl, Mrs. Arkansas Intl and I volunteered our services to the Wolfe Street Foundation and helped in the raffle of a pair of beautiful, $4,000-dollar earrings. One hundred small, red boxes were sold to everyone in the building and later we opened our boxes all at once to see if we had the winning box! (Unfortunately it was not me.)
The night consisted of auctions of extravagant jewelry, furs, vacation packages, everything you could imagine! The emcee was a local TV personality and local celebrity from KATV, Barry Brantd.
The dinner was a five-course gourmet meal and I couldn’t help but eat every bite of! It was delicious!
Yes, our dessert was too cute to not snap a picture of.
The mission of the Wolfe Street Foundation is to provide facilities for support groups and to develop and implement programs aimed toward education and prevention for anyone interested in recovery from addictions and for their families as they relate to alcoholism.
This event alone raised thousands of dollars to support the Wolfe Street Foundation and their cause and it was an honor to be a part of it.
Bagpipers gather quickly to welcome the mayor and Jimmy Fallon in to the icy water.
There is no real way to describe just how FRIGID it was along the lakeshore this weekend. The water was 32 degrees. That’s roughly 30 degrees warmer than outside temps. It was as if we were trapped in the movie, “Frozen.” And I was fully clothed and not running in to water that had been a giant iceberg only an hour before. Seriously, firefighters with special equipment went in to Lake Michigan (known as the largest iceberg to ever exist) and broke it apart so there was a small pool for seemingly sane people to jump in. Yes, welcome to Chicago’s Polar Plunge. It is an annual ritual held to raise funds for Special Olympics. And only Special Olympics could draw 3000 people out to plunge this weekend while ambulances lined up for fear people would have heart attacks from the shock. Yes, that is true.
A perfect day at the beach.
I was asked to be a part of this year’s event by helping welcome and cheer on plungers. I was also told I could take the dive with the other plungers. Now, as much as I LOVE wearing a swimsuit in public (or anywhere), I felt it was my public service to forgo forcing others to witness me running in the suit.
Big Rob helped with the event and served as security. He was kind enough to offer me help getting in to the water. Ha!
This year’s event had the biggest turnout ever. Jimmy Fallon may have helped with that. Yes, Jimmy! He and Chicago Mayor, Rahm Emanuel had a bet. Jimmy dared Rahm to appear on his show and Rahm dared Jimmy to take the plunge. And he did.
Looks like fun, huh? I fear he may never return to Chi-town again during winter. But I am sure he will come back to help the children and families who are a part of Special Olympics. Over a million dollars was raised! All that hypothermia was worth it!
In a recent trip I visited the most magical place on earth, Disney World! When you walk through the gate it can project you back to your childhood where you were amazed by the wonder of the world, thought happy thoughts, and believed that dreams can come true. As we get older it is more difficult to have faith in these fundamentals so the reminder is a wonderful, uplifting experience.
I attended with a dear friend of mine, RC. We were both celebrating meaningful accomplishments in our lives. Mine, of course, is wearing proudly the Miss International 2013 title. RC has recently lost 94lbs and counting and has adopted an admirable lifestyle of health and fitness. He just completed the Glass Slipper Challenge at Disney (that’s a 5k, 10k, and a 13.1 mile half marathon – a 3 day journey). In our own ways we are testaments to hard work and believing in the power of our dreams. That is something we can all relate to in this world - seeing our vision and making it happen.
I had a very profound moment while in the park. Wearing my crown and sash I was taking photos in front of Cinderella’s Castle when a little girl approached. I told her she looked like the most beautiful princess I had ever seen! Her father informed me that she does not speak English so he translated my words to her. She immediately embraced me with a warm hug and wanted to pose for a photo with me. I knelt down and never in my life has someone clung to me so tightly. When the wind was blowing hair in my face she turned to me and so gently brushed my hair behind my shoulders – could not have been more precious.
Sure, us crownheads may not be as immortalized as Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty and the rest of the gang, but we are influential nonetheless. The magic of being a titleholder does not come from others treating us like royalty, but treating others like they are royalty in themselves.
My wardrobe inspiration, Snow White, and my look for the day!
RC and I on Main Street USA (he’s wearing his race medals!!
Having a casual conversation with Ariel about a day in the life of a princess… we had so much in common ;-)
Posing with Ariel, my favorite childhood princess
Cinderella’s Castle and the man whose dreams made all of this reality
This mural was hand painted by students from Senn High School.
Tickled Pink was founded by Jodi Fyfe as a way to honor her cousin who died at age 35 from breast cancer. It benefits Bright Pink, the only national non-profit organization focusing on the prevention and early detection of breast and ovarian cancer.
Jennifer Naida and I were invited to the VIP reception.
More than 600 supporters came decked out in their very best pink. My pink dress was due to arrive, but did not due to “Extreme conditions beyond UPS’ control.” Still not sure what that meant. So I threw on a LBD and pink accessories.
A highlight for me was being able to spend a bit of time with a couple of photographers, like Eddie, who I worked with while I was at Fox.
With Fox sportscaster, Lou Canellis. He is a huge supporter of events such as Tickled Pink.
There was live music and over 2-dozen chef stations from restaurants including Travelle, Yum Cha, Firecakes, and Sunda. If you are ever in Chicago, do give these places a try.
This gorgeous cake gives me an idea for a gown!
The event raised more than $65,000 for Bright Pink, which will educate so many women. And some of these ladies don’t even know, yet, how much this will help them
I was sent home with a box of these delicious gourmet glazed donuts! Thanks!
One of the major reasons why I find it so important to be a well-rounded, driven, dedicated, and positive person is that a very special little girl who will grow up and look to me as a source of reference and very possibly inspiration.
That girl is my half-sister McKinley Rose, who just turned 4 years old. McKinley lives over 3 hours away from me, so the distance plus my always-hectic schedule prevents me from seeing her as often as I would like to. However, no matter how much time passes between visits, I am still greeted with a run, a warm hug, and the sweetest smile you have ever seen.
McKinley has seen me in my crown in photos, but until I showed her my Clay Spann autograph card did her eyes light up. She turned to me and said “Are you a real princess?!” I could tell then that I immediately jumped miles up on the “cool big sissy” chart.
She might not “get” the significance of the Miss International title and all of the hard work and platform dedication that go into it quite yet, but as she gets older I want to be sure that when she looks at the choices that I’ve made and is proud of her big sister. It is imperative as public figures and “real life princesses” to be positive role models for the young ladies in our lives and those who might be watching from a far.
A Future Miss International if I’ve ever seen one!
It’s one month till the Mrs., Miss and Miss Teen International Pageant! And this Sunday was the workshop for all of the contestants!!
Sitting at home the night before the workshop, I was checking my twitter and what I saw made me smile. Young ladies, who are contestants this year in the AR International Pageant, were tweeting about the workshop and their excitement! They were also tweeting each other, saying how ecstatic they all were that it’s finally here and how happy they were that they get to see each other. Seeing this warmed my heart and took me back to when I was a contestant just a year ago.
I absolutely love workshop! It’s a chance for me to get to know the contestants and help them prepare for the competition.
The state workshop is an opportunity for all of the contestants to get an idea of what the pageant will be like and what kind of things they will be doing as a state titleholder. At workshop we do everything from mock interviews to having opening number rehearsals.
My goal is to help all of the Mrs., Miss and Miss Teen International contestants be the best that they can be! That’s why if you have any questions at all, I encourage you to reach out to me and I will be happy to give you tips!
After becoming Mrs. Illinois International, I was thrilled to spend an hour being interviewed on the, “Best Ever You,” show. Elizabeth Hamilton-Guarino is the founder and CEO of the site, magazine and show of the same name. She is always in the midst of interviewing someone to help readers and listeners become our best selves.
Mom, CEO and author, Elizabeth Hamilton-Guarino.
Elizabeth just finished an inspirational new book titled, “Percolate,” to help uncover your best self and thrive. I am not sure where she finds the time in her day to get it all done! She is one of those who is naturally warm and inviting to talk with as if in-person over a cup of coffee. And her readers and listeners come from all around the world. I am told her radio show alone attracts as many as one hundred thousand listeners!
Now, as Mrs. International, I was asked to answer several questions to be published on her site and in her magazine. What a terrific opportunity to be able to promote International and CASA! So here is that interview:
Happy Women’s History Month! This is a time for us to look to the inspirational women who have come before us and harness their accomplishments to push ourselves to greatness.
To celebrate these great women I have put together a collection of quotes to remind us and motivate us. Do not let a day go by this month (or any month for that matter) without acknowledging the work that was done to get us where we are and to keep working to take us even farther. These women have balanced compassion with unwavering drive and determination to make a difference and achieve success.
“Think like a queen. A queen is not afraid to fail. Failure is another steppingstone to greatness” - Oprah Winfrey, television host and mogul
"Life is not easy for any of us. But what of that? We must have perseverance and above all confidence in ourselves. We must believe that we are gifted for something and that this thing must be attained." — Marie Curie, chemist and physicist
"Don't let anyone rob you of your imagination, your creativity, or your curiosity. It's your place in the world; it's your life. Go on and do all you can with it, and make it the life you want to live." — Mae C. Jemison, first African-American woman astronaut
"The best protection any woman can have...is courage." — Elizabeth Cady Stanton, American abolitionist
"To me success means effectiveness in the world, that I am able to carry my ideas and values into the world--that I am able to change it in positive ways." — Maxine Hong Kingston, author of "Woman Warrior"
"I'm not afraid of storms, for I'm learning to sail my ship." — Louisa May Alcott, author of "Little Women"
"It is better to look ahead and prepare than to look back and regret." — Jackie Joyner-Kersee, first woman to win back-to-back gold medals in the Summer Olympics
"Carry out a random act of kindness, with no expectation of reward, safe in the knowledge that one day someone might do the same for you." — Princess Diana of Wales, wife of Prince Charles
"The more one does and sees and feels, the more one is able to do, and the more genuine may be one's appreciation of fundamental things like home, and love, and understanding companionship." — Amelia Earhart, first American female aviator
Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day!!! To celebrate this holiday I attended the 15th annual St. Patrick’s Day parade in Little Rock, AR!
The parade is an annual celebration of Irish culture, music and dance, and the Irish-American heritage in Arkansas. The Parade was full of clowns, Irish Wolfhounds, antique cars, decorative floats and so much more!
I met some pretty interesting people there!
This parade is a huge event in Little Rock. There were over 90 different parade participants and the color green flooded the streets. So many things were taking place there that it was hard to take everything in at once! There was even a wedding!
After the Parade there were musical performances from the two marching bagpipe bands and traditional Irish dance performances by the McCafferty and O’Donovan Schools of Irish Dance.
These sweet little girls were part of one of the dance groups performing.
I had such a fun time at the parade this weekend and fortunately, all of the festivities ended just before it started to rain!
On the road again…this time I was heading south to Indiana. Indianapolis holds a piece of my history from a time before I was married, while working at WISH-TV. Due to Mother Nature, my plans kept changing as the route there (I-65) has been a bit deadly given snow drifts.
Now this trip was an opportunity to bring my kiddos because they had both President’s Day and the following day off from school. It was a perfect chance to also spend some time with my brother and his family who live in a suburb north of the Circle City. This time I wanted to show the children where I used to live and so we stayed downtown.
I have been dying to take Johnny (a train fanatic) to the Crown Plaza at Union Station. It has been prepping for the NFL Combine. We checked-in just in time as the hotel would be closed to the public so the teams and potential players could take it over a few days later.
The kids loved exploring the Union Station hotel.
We stayed in these train cars from the 1900’s. 200 of them came through the city every day back then. Now two-dozen of them rest on the original tracks inside the hotel. There are indoor skywalks to both the Circle Centre Mall and to Lucas Oil Stadium, should you visit Indy.
Before heading home I was able to briefly stop by “The Villages.” It is Indiana’s largest not-for-profit child and family services agency. They serve over 1,400 children and their families each day. And inside this building is a hub of agencies and organizations that are networked together to provide a wide array of services. Prevent Child Abuse Indiana is one of those! The Villages also has scattered-site apartments for teens that are about to age out of the system so they can learn life skills when they are out there in the world on their own. Wouldn’t it be wonderful is there were more Villages? Now, there is an idea…
Each time I travel down the east coast to Jacksonville, FL I get more and more excited for the new home of the International Pageants. I was invited to attend the 3rd annual PULSE Fashion Show for the American Heart Association. PULSE is a group of young professionals in the Jacksonville area that work to create these yearly networking events to bring awareness to cardiovascular health on a new level.
I was excited to be asked to emcee not only the fashion show, but to act as the red carpet host interviewing the VIP attendees. Brooks Brothers and Francesca’s sponsored the wardrobe of our models who reflected the spectrum of those impacted by heart disease and stroke: caregivers, family members, doctors, and industry professionals.
Enjoy the video below for a glimpse into the event!
Let’s face it, sometimes beauty pageants can be expensive and people aren’t made out of money. But there’s good news! There are ways to compete and win a pageant without breaking the bank.
Sponsors are how I paid to compete at the International Pageant and my state pageant. They supported me every little bit they could and I’m so grateful for that.
Local businesses are a good place to start. Once they know that a young lady from their community is going to compete at a pageant for their state or country, they always want to help! They want you to succeed because you’re representing them as well as their community.
Offer your services to them! Most businesses would love to have a pageant queen at their event, whether you’re speaking, working, or simply greeting people.
Remember that some people may not be able to give you anything, but don’t let that discourage you!
Don’t forget to promote them! One of the reasons they’ll give you money is because they want you to promote their business whether it’s handing out business cards or just referring a friend.
Don’t be afraid to ask because the worst that could happen is they simply say no.
For every person that says no there will be another person that says yes.
It takes a village to become Mrs. International, maybe a small nation. For me it was a small, but mighty country of family, friends, experts and even critics who aided me. And throughout this year I hope to shed light on areas where I felt help was critical. One of those areas concerned my face and hair. Yes, technically those are two areas, but one big issue for me.
Sure I could have done my own hair and make-up during the Mrs. International week…but then again, have you seen the ladies in my class? I needed help. And I found it through Thomas Dunn and his beauty crew. I have worked with incredible hair and make-up people over the years and considered each of them. However, I had also watched Thomas Dunn Studios transform ladies the year before at Mrs. International. And as the official hair and make-up sponsor for Mrs. International, they are the only hair and make-up team allowed back-stage. That’s kind of a big deal for me as my hair refuses to cooperate for more than ten minutes when left to my own devices.
Getting ready to see many sites. It was 100 degrees and yet their make-up remained!
With Thomas and Emily as I got ready to head in to interview.
I was even happier with my decision on so many levels during the week of competition. And looking back now, I am even more grateful I was able to be one of their clients. Every one of their stylists in their ready room is talented AND upbeat. I prefer maintaining my positive attitude and don’t care to be around stress or drama in situations where I need to be mentally on my toes. Plus, it gave us contestants a chance to hang out as we got prettied up. It was bonding time. Even at 5am, the environment was friendly, funny and relaxing. Plus TDS spent time in rehearsals to see us and the lighting on stage so they could get a feel for how we looked our best up there.
Keep in mind; you are photographed throughout the week. Judges see you in these pictures. Camera-ready hair and make-up is important.
With the beautiful Dr. Alicia Almendral at the dignitaries meet and greet.
A couple of ladies have asked me how scheduling is handled. It is like a well-oiled machine. We would slip in and out of rehearsals and get the transformations started. They would then rotate us back through to finish it up. Just before the shows and during the shows, they would continue to primp us. I can only imagine the hairspray film on the walls at the end of that week!
Some of the TDS staff backstage.
Can you see the look of love for Thomas on my face?
Thomas, Drew, Emily, Janice and everyone else from TDS all had a hand in making me look and feel wonderful. I won photogenic and became Mrs. International with their help. Since then, I have been able to spend more time with them. Without a doubt, I can tell you how committed they are to what they do. After all, they will be spending two weeks pulling 20-hour days during Mrs., Miss and Miss Teen International this summer. And I just love them so much and miss them just the same. WHY oh WHY cannot they not live near me?
Who doesn’t have special memories of childhood from spending time at the zoo? Seeing those animals we saw in books and movies in person was such a thrill! We in Buffalo cherish our zoo so that generations to come can and will enjoy be able enjoy these memories with their loved ones AND ensure our animals are treated with lots of love and care.
This year, I attended the Polar Bites fundraiser at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center to raise funds for the Buffalo Zoo. The event featured delicious local fare, silent auctions, area vendors, and some very special live animal guests: a snake, an owl, and an armadillo were a few of the friends I made!
Our pride and joy is our polar bear friend, Luna. Our community has seen Luna since her earliest days, her first steps, and beyond. The fundraiser is integral to making sure Luna has everything she needs. She is a treasure!
I was a little nervous at first, but I with Doreen’s help I cozied up to this python!
It’s impossible not to say “awe” when you see these sweet, cuddly polar bears!
When designing my paperwork for both the state pageant and the national pageant, we used the same design and layout. A mistake that I’ve seen many girls make when preparing for a pageant is that they think they have to change everything; everything from wardrobe to paperwork. I believe it’s good to improve, but a drastic change isn’t always necessary. Stick to what you know is good and what will show the judges who you are!
I new I wanted my paperwork to pop and draw your attention and that’s why I used the color red. (The fact that it was the color of the American Heart Association only made it more perfect!)
When making the platform sheet, there are a few key points that I wanted to make.
What is my platform
Why is it my platform
What have I done with my platform
What will I do with my platform if I win the pageant
The first two points should be somewhat in detail. It should be clear to the judges exactly what your platform is without any confusion. As for ‘why it’s my platform’, there can be a little mystery so they will have questions to ask, but they should get a basic idea from the platform sheet.
When it comes to ‘what I have done with my platform’, I loved using pictures! Without even saying a word about it, the judges could see that I was actively involved with my platform. Thus leaving the conversation open for questions about the work that I had done.
Stating ‘what will I do with my platform if I win the pageant” is like a closing statement. After presenting all of the information and key points, this raps up the platform sheet.
Remember to not let the platform sheet intimidate you; it’s very basic when you figure out what it is you want the judges to know. I recommend letting someone who isn’t involved in pageantry read over your paperwork and ask his or her opinion. Often we over analyze our paperwork and need a fresh mind to look at it.
A couple of weeks ago was the annual Chicago Go Red luncheon, held in the historic Walnut Room on the 7th floor of Macy’s. Macy’s has already donated close to 50-MILLION dollars during their decade long partnership with Go Red!
Time to place some bids!
The event began with silent auctions, Fauxtinis and taking many photographs. I had the pleasure of getting to know Vicki Misuraca and her daughter Lynzi. Both have been involved with the AHA for years and the mother-daughter duo organize a yearly fashion show for Go Red that Illinois International titleholders have participated in.
With Lynzi. Maybe she will give Miss Illinois International a try?
With Vicki and Lynzi Misuraca.
The Walnut Room is lovely and famous for it’s Christmas décor.
Goody bags included gift cards and lipsticks.
Over 600 of us then enjoyed the heart healthy luncheon raising awareness and funds. It was an honor to be seated with some impressive board members, donors, and executives of Go Red. One of the couples told me a mesmerizing story about how he suffered a heart attack while he was piloting their private plane. She had to radio in and figure out how to get the plane down safely while emergency crews waited on the tarmac! And we were given red cashmere scarves for pledging support. I’m wearing mine right now! Thank you to Heather Gavras, Anne Miller, Anne Schullo, Rosemary Jaffe and everyone else who organized such a beautiful afternoon!