Thursday, June 26, 2014

In Memory of Caldon

Just a year ago, a tragic event led to the death of 19-year old, Caldon. I was introduced to Caldon’s mother, Kathy, recently and I was touched by her desire to celebrate her son’s life and keep his memory alive each day. I cannot imagine the heartache those who love Caldon must endure.

In an effort to immortalize Caldon’s spirit, Kathy worked tirelessly to open a country themed café and shop that paid homage to all of his favorite things. Where those who had felt loss could come, relax, and reminisce on their memories.

I got a sneak peek of the café about 2 weeks before it would open to the public and was so impressed with its unique and fun attention to detail (saddles for chairs at the eat-in bar! SO cute!). That day Kathy said something to me that I know I will never forget: “An act of love can never fail”.

She invited me to attend the grand opening of the café, sit front and center at the line dance fashion show, and chat with guests. The outpouring of love I saw that day was truly touching. I am a better person for being able to be with Caldon’s loved ones on this very special occasion. I know his memory will continue to bless those who he left too soon.

Posing in the café area of the shop

A Congratulatory cake! 

Have you ever seen so many cowboy/cowgirl boots (in New York!)

Posing with one of the line dancers after the show

Seek Happiness,


Mistakes on Stage

I have been involved in pageantry for many years and in this time I have watched hundreds of pageants of every kind, yet I still see consistent mistakes that at least one girl in every pageant seems to make. These mistakes are especially noticeable in evening gown.

First is the real life issue that some girls don’t smile on stage. When on stage you want to come across as joyful, enthusiastic and relaxed which is something that you show through your expression. A smiling face shows the joy that you are feeling and conveys that to the judges. Meanwhile, a face that isn’t smiling comes across as too serious, almost sad/upset and not at all sexy if that is what you were going for.

Second is that awkward arm that many of us (including myself) have had an issue with. You know what I’m talking about- while one arm is peacefully lying still the other is swinging so high that it just might hit you in the face. Not only does it not look elegant or graceful, it actually looks quite awkward. Practice swaying you arms in unison and let your fingertips brush your thighs to keep things looking orderly and together.

Third is something as basic as standing on the stage. What looks good on stage is the traditional T stance or “pretty feet”. It makes you look poised, proportional and pretty whereas standing straight forward with your feet a few inches apart, arms hanging at your sides looks, once again, awkward.

Other issues include fidgeting with your dress while on stage, not looking at the crowd/judges while walking, or standing hunched over.

Whether you have any of these problems or not it’s important to practice your stance and walk in front of a mirror to polish yourself. And if you don’t have a mirror, record yourself and watch it back.

All my love,

Haley Pontius 
Miss Teen International

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

On the Road Again

This year I have managed to travel tens of thousand of miles. By then end of my year, I will have travelled to Florida four times alone and California a couple of times and those are just a couple of the places I have found myself this year.

That is why I suggest you make sure you are truly solid in your relationship with your husband. Be clear with yourself and your hubby about what the year may hold for you because you will be asking a lot of him should you really work your title. I can tell you much of my year has been possible because of my relationship with my husband. I have found a few key ways to make it easier to plan for this year of travel.

Children are anything but predictable when it comes to their schedules. There is always something. And because my family comes FIRST, I mark their dates on that big kitchen calendar and then plan accordingly.

And in spite of me marking everything on a large calendar in our kitchen, there have been times John has forgotten I was flying out the next morning. He has so much to handle every day that concerns the livelihoods and lives of others. I know he has a ton to keep organized. Still, he understands this is a year in the life of Mrs. International. So I try to have life at home as organized as possible while I am away. Try is the operative word!

My husband: I leave a detailed note to remind him of the events for each day I am away. This includes what needs to be packed in their school backpacks, what else they need to bring to school and what tests they may have. Even kindergartners and 2nd graders have a lot of little details to remember each day.

My kiddos: I leave them personal notes. It helps with their reading skills and they love it. They also love finding foam hearts in random places after I am gone. You can find stacks of them at Michael’s. Get creative with putting them I areas they will find them throughout your absence. And while it helps my family while I’m away, it helps ease my mind as well.

Be the change!

Amy Gregorio
Your Mrs. International

State Capitol

I traveled to Albany, NY for the American Heart Association to learn the best practices for a successful Heart Walk event. Perfect timing, as the AHA is preparing to lobby on behalf of CPR education and awareness this coming week. Hands Only CPR can save lives in critical situations and it is imperative that as many people as possible are educated on how to act in the moment.

I enjoyed a brief tour of the state capitol and the expansive underground network of buildings and businesses. My favorite spot was the Legislative Well (which I was surprised to find out is actually, in fact, a well). Also in “the Well” was a giant marble staircase that was absolutely breathtaking.

The crown draws lots of attention and is a great conversation piece. I love engaging with all different types of people and sharing the mission of the International Pageants – everyone is always impressed to hear how much emphasis is placed on service. It is exciting to be in a place where all of our various volunteer hours and advocacy efforts come to fruition via our local and state representatives.

How cute was this cozy bed! Fit for a queen if I do say so myself 

Visiting the D-Day Memorial Exhibit at the Capitol

The gorgeous marble staircase in the Legislative Building

Danielle, Miss NY International, joined me for a visit! Here we are with John, a veteran who uses painting as a form of therapy for his PTSD. He is proudly showing off his painting of Seville here.

Making a wish in the Legislative Well!

Seek Happiness,


Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Jacksonville, Florida

A few weeks ago I traveled down to the new home of our pageant: Jacksonville, Florida. Checking out the downtown area where we will be staying and the surrounding areas was a blast. I learned so much about this city and I’m so excited to return in a couple of months.

You might be wondering what there is to do in your free time in this city and I can tell you there’s plenty. The city is full of clothing boutiques, waterfront restaurants that give you a view of the St. Johns River, and entertainment all across the Jacksonville Landing.

Also, the beach is only 18 miles away from our hotel making it a perfect place to spend some of your free time during the week! Jacksonville Beach is just beautiful!

I took this picture just after the sun had risen one morning.

So, before you leave Jacksonville, make sure you stop by some of these places because it’ll be worth your while.

All my love,

Haley Pontius

Great Strides Walk to Cure CF

It was a gorgeous morning for the annual Great Strides Walk to Cure Cystic Fibrosis along the North Shore. It is an event the children and I have participated in before and it is truly incredible to see how much it continues to grow each year!

We first became involved with the walk as friends of ours have children in their family with cystic fibrosis. Jackie and Casey have two young boys who were diagnosed in 2005 with the genetic disease that primarily affects the lungs and digestive system. They are known in this area as the, “Mighty Magners,” plus several hundred of their family and friends.

Since their diagnosis, so much progress has been made with treatments. Now, the median lifespan has increased to 41 years old. And there is a cure for a mutation that affects 4% of the CF population.

The Magner’s sons, Jeff and Matthew, have a mutation that affects 70% of the CF population. The CEO of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation told the Magner’s their boys should qualify for a trial in 3 years for a drug that stops the progression of Cystic Fibrosis. And these strides have been made through the support of events such as these walks where 90-cents of every dollar raised goes directly to research. Last year, this particular walk raise well over 300-thousand dollars and this year, that will likely be even more support for the CFF.

Be the change!

Amy Gregorio 
You Mrs. International

Monday, June 23, 2014

Heart Ball

One of my favorite yearly events in the Heart Ball – a night to get dressed up, network with some of the area’s best and brightest business professionals and community figures, and see an outpouring of generosity working towards eradicating heart disease and stroke.

I had the fun job of emceeing the silent auction room, and as the night wore on, my role became increasingly important. With over 65 silent auction prize packages and over 550 attendees, bidding wars were taking place at every corner. I did my best to draw guests into the silent auction room and keep them engaged and motivated using my new key phrase “bid high, bid often!”. I had my eyes on quite a few items, however, my responsibilities required that I focused my attention on keeping the time (2 minutes remaining!).

The program of the event featured the touching stories of two prominent men in the community, their realization of their declining heart health and the stellar care they received in acting fast. It is such a testament to how important the work that the American Heart Association is doing to continue to fund research and development.

Overall, the night was a fabulous success and I was so glad to have been a part of it!

Striking a pose in front of the step and repeat

Working the stage

Checking out the silent auction items before starting my emceeing duties

Seek Happiness,


Friday, June 20, 2014

My Father

This past Sunday was Father’s Day! And in celebration of my dad I made a list of a couple of reasons why I admire him and he’s basically the best Dad around.
  1. He thinks outside the box. He’s always full of new ideas and ways of doing things and has taught me to look at the world from a different angle.
  2. He’s artistic and talented. He passed down some of his artistic ability to me and that is something that has deeply impacted my life and my way of thinking.
  3. He’s kind hearted and generous. Whether it’s giving to the personal account of his daughter or to a homeless man, he always gives more than enough.
  4. He doesn’t ask for much in return. A simple thank you, a gesture of kindness or showing him you care is enough.
  5. He can always crack a joke to make me laugh.
  6. He’s my biggest fan and whether or not he’ll admit it, he gets way more into my pageants than my mom and me.
  7. Because he’s so amazing, when I was a little girl, he was able to build me a huge, three story playhouse complete with a swinging bridge, fireman pole, rope ladder and slide.
  8. He has the biggest heart. Ever since I was little he’s taught me to love any animal I came across including tarantulas, snakes and lizards. (Which is why today, I’m the biggest animal lover you’ll ever meet.)
  9. He’s the strongest person I know and he’s shown me that he can preserver through anything.
  10. He makes everything he does extraordinary. Whether it’s the holiday decorations, the food that he cooks for me and my friends or normal everyday things. He always goes the extra mile and then some to make life extraordinary.

In short, I see a lot of my Dad in me and everyday I strive to be a little more like him because he’s the best parent I could ask for.

Much love,

Haley Pontius

Thursday, June 19, 2014

International Queens in the News (June Edition)

Miss Arkansas International 2014 - Kelsey Theall 

Senior Represents Arkansas at Miss International Pageant (The Echo)

Mrs. Australia International 2014 - Kate Johnson

Real Girl Beauty: 5 minutes with Mrs Australia Kate Johnson (DDG Daily)

Miss Teen California International 2014 - Courtney Critz

Miss Teen California tees off in Folsom for St. Jude’s Children's Research Hospital  (The Folsom Telegraph)’s-childrens-research-hospital

Mrs. Colorado International 2014 - Christina Schlachter 

The Write Stuff (Boulder Lifestyle)

Mrs. Colorado International (NoBo Magazine)

Mrs. Florida International 2014 - Teresa Sheffield 

Mrs. Great Lakes International 2014 - Heidi Scheer

Published author, Beauty Pageant Winner Partners with Michigan Company on New Nutrition Bar; Proceeds to benefit Autism Families (BusinessWire)

Mrs. Great Plains International 2014 - Maggi Thorne

Local Haulers to Collect Shoes at Curb Next Week (City of Lincoln, Nebraska)

Cleaner Greener Lincoln hoping for world record shoe donation (Journal Star)

Former Husker stars in 'American Ninja Warrior' on NBC (Live Well Nebraska)

One week left of shoe drive (ABC 8)

Mayor promotes healthy living and a healthier environment (ABC 8)

Nebraska Soles 4 Souls Shoe Drive (Strictly Business)

Miss Teen Idaho International 2014 - Kelsy Patrick
Miss Idaho International 2014 - Charlie Muraski
Mrs. Idaho International 2014 - Amanda Dastrup


Mrs. Illinois International 2014 - Randi Moxi

Sun Hero Gala raises $150,000 for Pediatric Sun Protection Foundation (Deerfield Review)

Miss Teen Indiana International 2014 - Katelynne Newton

Go Red for Women (WTHR 13)

Advocate Stories (You're the Cure/American Heart Association)

Avon High School wows with epic lip dub video (WTHR 13)

Mrs. Kentucky International 2014 - Jessica Russo

Miss Minnesota International 2014 - Gabrielle Taylor 

Miss Minnesota shares story to promote safety (Fairmont Sentinel)

Miss Teen Missouri International 2014 - Sara Moore

Around and about: Kicks for Cure raises record $320K for cancer research (Omaha)

Mrs. New Mexico International 2014 - Nikki Garcia

Mrs. Northeast International 2014 - Danielle Micale 

Milltown pageant queen boosts Alzheimer’s awareness (My Central Jersey)

Reaching Out (Sentinel)

Mrs. Pakistan International 2014 - Zunera Mazhar

Zunera Mazhar crowned Mrs Pakistan International (Pakistan Today)

Miss Pennsylvania International 2014 - Amanda Pope

Liberty native to compete on pageantry's global stage (TribLive)

Mrs. South Asia International 2014 - Ruchika Sharma

Miss St. Kitts & Nevis International 2014 - Stacey Greene

Improving Lives Through Dance Therapy (SKNVibes)

Energetic, Determined, and Resilient (Sandy Point Benevolent Society & ZIZ Online)

Honoring Excellence! (SKNVibes)

Miss Teen Texas International 2014 - Jahnavi Muppaneni

Muppaneni named Miss Teen Texas International 2014 (India Herald)

Mrs. Texas International 2014 - Whitney Montgomery

Mrs. Vermont International 2014 - Megan Ruprecht

Mrs. Vermont puts spotlight on bullying (St. Albans Messenger)

Mrs. West Virginia International 2014 - Judy Ridenour

Judy Ridenour Interview (Channel 12)

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

CASABlanca Spring Gala

This year, CASA Lake County is celebrating its 20th anniversary. And it was ushered in at the ravishing Ravinia. Ravinia is known for hosting big name outdoor concerts and productions. Spectators bring picnics, including chandeliers, as they take in performances under the stars. Tonight the stars were the children!

We volunteers were ready for the night to get underway!

Hundreds of people came out to support CASA and children who have been abused or neglected. CASA volunteers give their time and hearts, but the specialized training we receive and the continuing education classes we take cost money to provide. Also, there must be a CASA manager must be hired for every 30 CASA volunteers.

Along with a heads-n-tails raffle, we also had plenty of tables lined with silent auction items.

After dinner, I was able to help with the fast-paced live auction which raise well over 200-thousand dollars!

This evening was our annual CASAblanca Gala. We were riveted by the night’s honoree, the incredible Steve Pemberton. A husband, father and a division vice president at Walgreens…Steve survived terrible abuse as a young boy. His childhood memories brought us to tears.

Steve has recounted some of those experiences in a compelling memoir, “A Chance in the World: An Orphan Boy, a Mysterious Past, and How He Found a Place Called Home.” 

At 3-years old, Steve was separated from his siblings and placed in various foster homes. In one such home, he was beaten, burned and had to search through garbage for food. He was a junior in high school when he finally summoned to courage to speak about his life to a school counselor. He later graduated from Boston College and is married with three young children. If only he had a CASA then. He wondered how different those years would have been with an advocate to help protect him.

Steve’s message reinforced why supporting CASA is life changing and life saving for children. And because of the generous donors, we will be able to help many children waiting for a CASA.

Be the change!

Amy Gregorio 
Your Mrs. International

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Buffalo Half Marathon

One of the mottos I live with is Qui Audet Adipiscitur which translates to “She who dares, wins”. I love finding new ways to challenge myself. There is nothing more satisfying to me than living a full life with lots of different experiences that I can share with my loved ones, present and future.

Last year, I asked my Dad if he would join me and run our first half marathon together. I knew I needed a partner and I knew if my Dad and I made this agreement, neither of us would break it. We were locked in! It was every bit as challenging as we expected (hello, 13.1 miles!), but it was a great day and accomplishment. We immediately decided we would try again this year.

We successfully cut down 6+ minutes from our time from last year and were much better at pacing ourselves throughout. It was so nice to host my brother and my Dad here in Buffalo for the weekend and it was fun to show off our “team shirts” (mine said “Miss International” of course!) as we rubbed elbows with the other full and half marathon finishers.

One of the most moving moments of the day is running underneath a giant American flag hoisted above the course by local fire trucks.

Father and Daughter at the finish line!

Team International

Can you spot us? 2:59:57 (our adjusted time will be approx. 2:56:57)

A gorgeous day in Buffalo, NY! 

On to the next challenge 

Seek Happiness,


Social Media & Pageantry

As the pageant inches closer and closer everyday, the time has come for me to talk about social media and you as a contestant in this pageant. As we all know social media is a huge part of many of our lives and it can have it’s benefits, but of course it can also have it’s drawbacks.

Our social media accounts say a lot about us and what we choose to post can affect someone’s view of us. Depending on the language that you use or the way that you dress, other people make assumptions about your moral character. And when it comes to social media it’s best to stay on the safe side because anyone could be looking at your posts, including your judge.

The judges aren’t just looking for a cute or bubbly teen girl to represent this pageant system, but a classy and sophisticated young lady. So now its time to ask yourself… is that what your social media accounts portray?

If your Twitter account is littered with inappropriate tweets or your Instagram account is filled with unladylike photographs you just might be doing it wrong.

Here is a list of things to go by if you aren’t quite sure…
  • Don’t use inappropriate language or talk about inappropriate things
  • Dress modestly
  • If it’s illegal the answer is NO
  • Any and all drinking/smoking/drugs is a big fat NO
Basically, if you wouldn’t show it to your judges, don’t post is on the Internet.

So really, all you have to do is act like a queen would and you’re good to go! (After all, that is what you’re trying to achieve.)

All my love,

Haley Pontius

Monday, June 16, 2014

Highwood Go Red

Heart disease is the number one killer of woman. More women die each year of heart disease than ALL cancers combined. The Go Red Midwest chapter chose this week to launch, “Breakfast in Red,” as it leads in to Mother’s Day. What a wonderful time to honor our mothers, daughters, sisters, and friends. This morning we all met at the well-known Miramar restaurant in Highwood.

Both breakfasts these last two days were sold out and a successful way to raise both money and awareness about heart health.

This was only part of the restaurant filled with both men and women.

Anna Maria Viti-Welch chaired the Highland Park event. She is in charge of a very high-powered company. And that, came at a price to her health. In spite of a healthy diet and active lifestyle, she was burning the candle at both ends. That's when she suffered a heart attack. Anna Maria has since hired on additional people to support her endeavors so she can give herself a break. Luckily for us, we were able to listen and learn from her story of survival.

I give huge kudos to the Go Red advocacy committee and volunteers who champion these breakfasts. You made these events a great way to kick off the day and the rest of the weekend! There is still one more “Breakfast in Red,” near Chicago. Here is your invite!

Be the change!

Amy Gregorio 
Your Mrs. International

Friday, June 13, 2014

Know Your Platform!

It goes without saying that you should know your platform backwards and forwards due to all of the appearances and conversations you have on its behalf. As you create and strengthen your personal platform campaigns and presentations it is important to keep a few things n mind. In your interview, you are the CEO of your platform so you must be completely versed in defending it to all demographics (it is your job to be the devil’s advocate before someone else has a chance to stump you and look at your platform objectively). Here are some questions to help you develop a more rounded approach to prepare you for any situation.

How would you communicate the importance of your platform to students? Young Professionals? Parents? Senior Citizens?

How would you present your platform in a way that would differentiate it from other valuable causes and organizations?

What would you say to those who may not agree with your platform (if it’s a lifestyle issue)?

How would you position your platform to gain media attention? How would you use social media specifically?

What can you do to engage people with an interactive strategy?

What are some reasons that people may not support your platform? How can you help them see why it is necessary?

How can people get involved with your platform? Volunteer? Donate?

Use these questions as tools to facilitate well rounded dialogue in both casual and professional situations.

Seek Happiness,


Thursday, June 12, 2014

Super Duper in Pittsburgh

Ali and I packed up our capes and Superhero garb before boarding a plane bound for Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Wonder Woman and Super Queen unite…form of…(and this is where I date myself.)

We found our way to Market Square for dinner at the beloved Il Pizziaolo which was followed up with swimming at the hotel’s indoor pool.

Early the next morning (EST vs. CST is a big deal) we pulled ourselves together in all our Superhero glory. (Thank goodness for Etsy!) It was only the start to our adventure that day. Unlike Chicago and other large cities, Pittsburgh does not offer cabs on every corner, even when you call ahead for one. One must be crafty, as we discovered the night before. (I admit the organizers wanted to pick us up…at 5:30am EST) But, alas, we made it to the land of Superheroes. And there were thousands of them! Capes, tutus and masks galore! The Pittsburgh Superhero Run is one of the more established events through the Superhero Foundation that benefits CASA. And I was thrilled to be able to speak and thank everyone by telling them why their efforts are so important to CASA!

There were raffles, vendors and even a kids’ Superhero Boot Camp. Go Ali, go!

With radio celebs, Mike and Bob, from KISS 96.1

Ali was determined to run. So she (with me trailing behind her) took on the race (half of which was uphill) and was given a medal for her efforts.

Thousands registered for the Superhero Run. Ali is in front of me with the red cape and blue tutu.

After the awards and finding our way back to the hotel, Ali and I then scaled the Duquesne incline up the face of Mt. Washington for a gorgeous view of Pittsburgh.

It’s too bad Johnny was playing hockey at home as he would have LOVED it!

Time to get home to see the boys, but not before Ali discovered one of a girl’s biggest joys…EARRINGS! Her daddy will be happy to find these dangles are only clip-ons.

Be the change!

Amy Gregorio 
Your Mrs. International