Monday, April 28, 2014

Pageant Checklist

The International Pageant may by a little over three months away, but I know many of you contestants are already scrambling to get everything ready to go. (I was the exact same way.) When making your checklist of must-have items, there are a few things I recommend.

So, I have put together my ultimate pageant checklist. These are a few things that helped me so much when I was competing and I know they will you too!
  1. Portable clothing rack- it’s cheap, easy to use and it comes in handy when you have to transport all of you clothes.
  2. Power strip with multiple electrical plug ins & an extension cord- when getting ready backstage you’ll not only love yourself, but everyone else will too!
  3. Door mirror- it’s cheap, lightweight and comes in handy if there are more girls than mirrors backstage.
  4. Steamer- it works wonders getting the wrinkles out of anything and you can easily take it apart to take with you wherever you go.
All of these things are inexpensive, easy to carry and you can find them just about anywhere. These simple items will get you through thick and thin. I promise!

All my love,

Haley Rose Pontius

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Windy City Live

Recently, my dear friend, Jennifer, and I were Windy City Live bound. Windy City Live is a talk show that started when Oprah turned off her show. It is a live syndicated show, so there is plenty of coordinated clapping and acting like cameras are not in your face. Ah, the joys of hi-def. TV.

While there, I was introduced and was able to briefly speak International and CASA. It was unexpected surprise to have others ask me more about CASA and I was even asked for a way to get more information. Then they surprised everyone with a trip on a trolley to a new restaurant by three well-known chefs here! It’s called Spritz Burger and offer unique sodas/cocktails and food the chefs’ enjoy when they are home such as gourmet burgers. Then it was time to head back to the burbs.

Be the change!

Amy Gregorio

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

International Queens in the News

Miss Australia International 2014 - Natalie Assad

Goodness comes to Parramatta (The Sun)

Miss Teen Australia International 2014 - Amaani Hatoum

Goodness comes to Parramatta (The Sun)

Mrs. Australia International 2014 - Kate Johnson

Goodness comes to Parramatta (The Sun)

Mrs. Eastern States International 2014 - Amber Wandtke

Official Elizabeth Dole Foundation Ambassadors Announced (Elizabeth Dole Foundation)

Mrs. Great Plains International 2014 - Maggi Thorne 

How to Save the World (Gladys Magazine)

Miss India International 2014 - Shruti Thakkar

Miss Teen India International 2014 - Aarti Gupta

Aarti Gupta – Miss Teen India International 2014 (Bollywood Life)

Mrs. Kansas International 2014 - Kimberly McDowell

Mrs. Louisiana International 2014 - Kelly Cameron

It's all about making good choices: A Day for Girls' Health (The Times-Picayune)

Mrs. Minnesota International 2014 - Kimberly Stommes

Mrs. South Dakota International 2014 - Whitney Fretham

Miss Teen Utah International 2014 - Maddie DeLoach

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Platform Page

Amy previously shared with you some examples of platform pages, including the stellar work of Susan Botek, official graphic designer of the International Pageants. Let me reiterate how important this document is. Other than your headshot, it will be the first chance for you to share a glimpse of yourself, your platform dedication, and your plan as a titleholder before you are actually sitting in front of the judges. It is imperative that it is well organized, error free, and speaks directly to your persona. Essentially, it is who you are in paper form.

Let me share with you my state platform page and illustrate where I fell short and how I reconciled it in my national page.


-I wasted so much space in the text of the title and tagline clearly losing out on opportunities to include further substance.

-HUGE photos and text! As much as I love the pictures from my trip to Africa, they really dominate the page. Truthfully, I probably did not physically print out this and see just how large it would read on the page – DON’T make that mistake!

-While the tagline “engage, educate, empower” is certainly a plan of action to implement my platform, it doesn’t really say WHY my platform is relevant and requires attention.


-While the color combination leaves much to be desired, having a cohesive color/text theme can make the overall look more polished.

-I chose photos that would feed off of the strongest items on my fact sheet that I wanted to draw extra attention to. By visually emphasizing stories and experiences that show your strongest platform connections, you invite the judges to ask you questions that you know you can knock out of the park.


-Turquoise and yellow have been “my” colors for a very long time. My platform is all about spreading joy and happiness so I knew they would be the perfect way to communicate my “bright” outlook without having to say a word.

-Bullet points are a great way to break up text without losing substance so you can keep a judges attention while sharing lots of information.

-This is your chance to show all you have done as a state/regional/national titleholder so the judges can imagine where you will take your platform on a larger stage.

It’s not perfect, but it contained substance on the topic to reach various demographics, showed my dedication at length, and spoke to my personality in a way that would stand out.

Keep in mind:

-Have multiple people check over your paperwork to ensure there are no spelling or grammar errors

-Substance, substance, substance!

-Present a professional document. You can have fun with your platform page, absolutely! However, if you do not have graphic design experience I URGE you to seek reputable assistance. (Ahem, Susan Botek)

Seek Happiness,


Friday, April 18, 2014

Senior Prom

It’s prom season and Saturday night was the big night for me!

I can’t believe it’s already here! Senior Prom! I can’t help but wonder where has the time gone?

Our theme was All That Jazz and the room was decorated like the 1920’s! Some of my friends even ran with the theme and dressed accordingly to it!

Did I mention I won Prom Queen!

Prom King just so happened to be the same boy who won Mr. PHS when I won Miss PHS! What are the odds?

The night was topped off with our traditional Senior Video, which I might add brought me to tears. It starts off with a slide show, showing a few pictures of each student with a personalized song for each of them. Then came the videos of our teachers all the way from elementary school to now, talking about their memories of us. The end of the video was filled with touching moments from our elementary days and our last moments as seniors.

I wasn’t teary eyed until I looked next to me and saw one of my good friends with tears and mascara running down here face. I had to turn away because if anything was going to make me burst into tears it was going to be seeing her cry!

This was truly a night I will never forget! It breaks my heart that our thirteen-year journey together is about to come to an end, but I know that there are even greater things to come for all of us. This prom was the perfect way to kick off the end of our senior year and I wouldn’t want to have it any other way!

All my love,

Haley Pontius

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Illinois International Pageant

This is one of the most precious pictures I have of Johnny. It was take a year ago while he was praying I would become Mrs. Illinois International 2013. He wanted that SO badly.

Fast-forward a year. This weekend I helped welcome in a new 2014 Mrs. Illinois International along with new Miss and Miss Teen Illinois International titleholders. And although my year as Mrs. International continues, there are several people to thank who helped me become Mrs. Illinois and prepare for Mrs. International.

Of course I thank my husband. He has always supported me and in so many ways. My children are incredible little beings who have been so excited and enthusiastic even when I miss time with them so I may serve others.

My mother and father have been my long-distance cheerleaders. My mother is always a perfect source for advice and brainstorming. Jennifer has time and again demonstrated true generosity and selflessness over this year. I’ve always been able to count on my friendship with Michelle and Rona, even though we're hundreds of miles apart. Holly, Sarah and Gaspar made sure I was ready for Illinois and beyond. Geri, Lori, Tim and Bill offered keen insight as I prepared for International. BTW, Gerri is now one of the directors for Ohio International! And Dee has since become a friend of mine who has always been so giving. I am a blessed person to be surrounded by such love and support. Thank you!

Look at this arrangement Dee and Debbie brought for me. The mini crown looks like the International crown!

And of course I must thank the Illinois International staff. It is no easy task to produce a state pageant each year and help titleholders during their year.

Congratulations to the new Illinois International queens. Mrs. Illinois-Randi Moxi, Miss Illinois-Jessica Taylor and Miss Teen Illinois-Camille Paddock. You are now embarking on a terrific adventure filled with so many opportunities to positively impact others. You are going to love the International Pageants system, the Richardsons and everyone who is a part of this remarkable family. I will see you all soon in Jacksonville!

Be the change!

Amy Gregorio
Your Mrs. International

Wednesday, April 16, 2014


Our move to Jacksonville is allowing for some incredible organizational partnerships to be made. One of these partnerships is with the PACE Center of Jacksonville. PACE Centers offer services for young women who have experienced adversity in the form of abuse, trauma, and neglect, or who have risk factors that could cause academic underachievement.

PACE Centers offer academic, social services, and transition services for the young women enrolled (ages 12-17). Take a look at some of the statistics from PACE for the ladies when they enter and after they have left…. Truly astounding!

Think about these statistics…

50% of our girls live in neighborhoods with higher than average crime rates
30% of our girls reported physical, emotional or sexual abuse before coming to PACE
40% of our girls used drugs and alcohol prior coming to PACE

What kind of success do girls have after leaving PACE?

90% had no involvement with Juvenile Justice within a year of leaving PACE!
91% were in school or employed three years after leaving PACE!
100% improved their academic performance!

Where do we come in? The PACE Center of Jacksonville has already served over 3,000 girls since its inception in 1985 and with our help it can be so many more! They are in dire need of personal hygiene products (shampoo, conditioner, body wash/shower gel, deodorant, new bras and underwear in various sizes). I know your suitcases will be practically packed to capacity in Jacksonville, but I urge you to think of the girls at the PACE Center and bring 2 items with you that can be donated to this worthy cause. During the week, Haley and I will deliver the donations and I can’t wait to show them the generosity and selflessness that our contestants possess.

Learn more about the PACE Center of Jacksonville here:

Seek Happiness,


Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Spring Break in England

Spring break was one of the greatest weeks of my life! I had the amazing opportunity to visit England with some of my best friends on a school trip. Getting to see everything from Winsor Castle to the Roman Baths was an experience that I will never forget!

And of course I can’t go anywhere without my sash!

We were always on the go and switched hotels almost every night, but it was worth it to get to see everything thing that we did. It was all breathtaking and left you staring in awe.

The Roman Bath’s were built in 70A.D.!!

Stonehenge was definitely the coolest place we visited because of the mysterious story behind it and the actual size of it. It was so much bigger than I could have ever imagined!

One of the coolest things we were able to do was ride the Tube, trains and double decker buses as our means of transportation!

Something else that astounded me was the crown jewels! It was simply breathtakingly beautiful. (And I thought my crown was huge!)

Something that I absolutely loved about England was how healthy the people there were! They walked everywhere. Plus, the portion sizes at restaurants were so perfect! I also enjoyed getting to try some of the local cuisine such as fish and chips, bangers & mash and the traditional English breakfast.

Being able to visit another country, experience the different cultures and meet the diverse people was eye opening. There’s a whole world of people out there, all with something they can teach me.

To say the least this was a trip that I will never forget!

Much love,

Haley Pontius

Monday, April 14, 2014

Lurie Children's Hospital

I adore Lurie Children's Hospital. As a parent, you would never want your child to be faced with time in a hospital, but thankfully there are facilities such as Lurie. For years I have been part of events to raise funds for various programs provided for patients and their families before this state-of-the-art facility was recently completed.

This full size fire engine had to be lifted by a crane to the 12th floor for children to enjoy.

I was invited to visit with some of their young patients last month. Unfortunately, due to flu season many of their siblings are unable to visit. I met an amazing little girl who was missing the company of her twin sister. So I was more than happy to step in and help provide some fun.

The Family Life Center where patients and family members can play.

A young patient and I created these. She is far more talented than I.

Sometimes siblings of patients can feel left behind or forgotten so volunteers will go out of their way to give them one-on-one attention where they can be the focus which is a huge relief for parents. Therefore, I will return again once flu season is over when those brothers and sisters can return.

Be the change!

Amy Gregorio
Your Mrs. International

Sunday, April 13, 2014

You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby

I was going through my childhood bedroom and found lots of old photos and memories. I couldn’t help but double-over in laughter when I found a photo of me from my very first pageant. For those who have followed my pageant journey, I started competing in pageants when I was 13 years old. I can remember watching pageants on TV with my mom as young as 5 and we never missed one and even recorded most, but the conversation of doing them myself never really came up. Finally, one summer vacation I compiled all the VHS tapes and watched each one – scrupulously analyzing hairstyles, gowns, colors, walks. I wanted to do this.

When I brought the idea to my mom, she said if it was something I wanted to try that I was responsible for finding a pageant and funding it myself to prove my interest and we would go from there. Challenge – Accepted. I found a pageant at my local shopping mall, a two-piece “gown” for $10, reused shoes and accessories, did my own hair and make-up, and funded my entry fee with various money from chores and birthdays.

There were 3 contestants in my age group and I did not win, but had the best time – we were hooked! It took many years and lots of trial and error to find out the best way to show the judges the real me, and that I was ready for a crown.

I share this picture (not only for a good laugh but…) to show that personal growth should never end. We are constantly learning more about ourselves, our likes, our strengths, our preferences, our passions. No matter the direction you choose to take your pageant presentation on the outside, never lose sight that you are your most valuable asset. It is what’s inside of you that will set you apart.

Seek Happiness,


Saturday, April 12, 2014

PACE Center for Girls

PACE Center For Girls is a nonprofit organization in Florida whose purpose is to intervene and prevent school withdrawal, juvenile delinquency, teen pregnancy, substance abuse and welfare dependency in a safe and encouraging environment.

As soon as I heard that the International Pageant had partnered with PACE I was thrilled! The PACE Center has done some amazing things for young woman in Jacksonville, FL over the past three decades. Since opening it has helped over 3,000 girls accomplish their goals through academic, social and transition services.

Their philosophy is: “PACE values all girls and young women, believing each one deserves an opportunity to find her voice, achieve her potential and celebrate a life defined by responsibility, dignity, serenity and grace.”

How perfect is this?? The international Pageant System is all about empowering young woman and lifting them up to succeed. The PACE Center shares in our belief that every girl deserves to be valued and given the opportunity to shine.

PACE is a place for young girls to heal and grow. These young ladies have experienced a variety of issues such as abuse, trauma, and neglect. Girls at PACE have individual and social goals that are focused on earning a high school diploma or GED, re-entering public school, attending college, getting vocational training, joining the military or entering the private workforce.

Even after the program’s completion, PACE continues to monitor each girl's educational and personal development with three years of follow-up case management.

I hope you all will dive right in and get involved with this organization and help these girls find their voice and achieve their potential!


Miss Teen International 2013

Friday, April 11, 2014

Family Service Night

Sometimes you just can't be in two places at once. We try, yes, but only sometimes can we actually pull it off, right? That was the case on Wednesday night. I was asked to take part in a major brainstorming session for an upcoming CASA Gala. However, my children's school was also hosting their annual Family Service Night.

What to do? I decided to send along ideas for “dream” live auction items and take the kids to their school instead. Well, I took Ali. Johnny had spring hockey tryouts. (A 6-week tryout-seriously?) There is ALWAYS something…

I think it's extremely important for children to help their communities, be it through their churches, schools or families. From an early age, if we can ingrain the importance of helping others around us, children will learn to think outside themselves and grown in to people of substance.

And the school agrees. So, families gathered in the gymnasium and took part in various projects for several local organizations. Handmade tissue flowers were fluffed to brighten the day of those living in an assisted living center. Chew toys were made for a local animal shelter. Food was donated and lunches were bagged for a local food pantry. We cleaned off toys and created coloring books for children in need.

The art of braiding comes in handy for hair and dogs! My sweet Ali is going to help change the world!

And perhaps those benefiting THE MOST from all the work done this evening were the students themselves…including my favorite kindergartner. I will say one of my proudest moments was when Ali’s teacher said she is already keenly aware of the world and needs of others. Someday I am sure she will be part of the Peace Corp…and I will go with her ;)

Be the change!

Amy Gregorio
Your Mrs. International

Thursday, April 10, 2014

First Impressions

There are lot of decisions you will make in the coming weeks regarding your presentation at the Miss Teen, Miss, and Mrs. International pageants. Your headshot will be one of the most difficult decisions you will make. Quite possibly, this could be one of the first impressions you make on the judges. To ensure I had the best possible advice to share with you, I interviewed the official photographer of the International Pageants, the legendary Clay Spann.

Here are Clay’s suggestions and tips for a headshot that will captivate the judges and intrigue them so they cannot wait to meet you come interview day.

What are the key things to keep in mind when selecting outfits for headshots?

Clay Spann: Make sure to bring both casual and formal clothing as well as a variety or colors and necklines.

What type of jewelry reads best on camera?

Clay Spann: Usually larger accessories show up better on camera. However, if you are going for a more natural look, go with smaller accessories or none at all.

What is the most common make-up mistake in photos?

Clay Spann: Some of the most common mistakes that clients can make when applying makeup for a photoshoot are: Not blending eyeshadows and blush well and not applying enough foundation.

How important is the right background to a headshot?

Clay Spann: Backgrounds are important to the headshot. Always take a test shot to make sure the background compliments the client’s wardrobe and skin tone.

What are the keys to catch a judge’s eye with a headshot?

Clay Spann: Be genuine! Always smile the way you would around your friends and family. That way, the photographer will capture your true essence.

Thank you Clay Spann for taking the time to provide this information and for your support of the International Pageants! 

Seek Happiness,


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Heifer International

An organization that I believe I have yet to speak about, but truly love, is Heifer International. When I was a little girl my parents used to take me to the Heifer Ranch all the time and I absolutely loved it every single time!

Heifer International's mission is to work with communities everywhere to end world hunger and poverty and in the process, care for the Earth.

It stands by the philosophy: “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day; show a man how to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.”

After the projects have been established, families living in poverty receive resources from Heifer such as livestock, seeds or training. The families then pass of the gifts that they have received and the cycle continues!

Animals are the backbone of this organization because of the life-sustaining products they give such as milk, cheese, eggs and wool. For every animal given, the families agree to pass on the first offspring of that animal to another family in need.

The people within the communities become the cycle of positive change by passing on the offspring. In some communities, up to 22 generations of Heifer animals can be traced!

This site depicts a typical family home in Zambia. The round shape allows families to spend less on constructing, and grass for the roof is readily available in the nearby forests. By selling milk, families can send their children to school, pay for medicine to prevent malaria, and make other improvements on their land.

It was lambing week! These little lambs had just been born the night before.

Over 20.7 million families and 94.5 million men, women and children have been given these resources and are continuing the cycle. Heifer International has accomplished a lot, but they aren’t stopping until they’ve seen the end of world hunger and poverty for good.

One of the easiest ways that you can get involved is by donating an animal. It costs no more than $120 to donate a sheep to someone living in poverty or $500 to donate a heifer. There are several animals to choose from and it could mean the gift of life to many people.

All my love,

Haley Pontius