Guess Who’s Back: A Week In The Life Of A (Semi-Retired) Pageant Judge

Well guys, I’ve blown the dust off of my sequins and tried on every single thing in my closet I can still squeeze into, packed it all up, and will be proudly (even if it’s a little snug) wearing it in Florida this week where I’m honored to be part of a distinguished panel of judges once again.

If you’ve ever been curious about what it’s like behind the scenes of the life of a pageant judge, I’ll be sharing some fun snapshots and clips on my Instagram @MrsKansasMommy throughout the week.

Going into this trip, knowing I’d be back in the realm of glam that is my happy place (none of my daughters are into pageants so it’s really just “Mommy’s hobby”) free from the day to day minutiae of school drop offs and volleyball practice and cleaning up after the dog, I was packing my suitcase and remembering what it feels like to be nervous about presenting yourself the best way you can, flaws, insecurities and all. It takes courage to stand on your own two feet and say, “Hey, hi nice to meet you! This is who I am…”

Whether you’ve followed me for years or are just discovering my blog today, I’ve always been a huge proponent of the National American Miss Pageant system. I started judging state pageants for the organization ten years ago when my first daughter was 1. Over the last decade, my life has been so enriched by these experiences, meeting bright-eyed young ladies and being a tiny part of helping them grow in confidence and poise, building their sense of self worth and life skills that will carry them on into adulthood.

I’m coming into this week with so much respect for every single member of every family here. They are showing their daughters they believe they are worthy of being seen, heard, and celebrated. As a mother of four daughters, it’s my opinion that all girls deserve to know that their value does not lie in the outcome of a competition, their worth cannot be judged, and comparison to others is the thief of joy. The only person worth comparing yourself to is the person you were yesterday. We are all improving on our own timelines. When one thinks of how pageants are typically portrayed, that may seem counterintuitive. But my experiences with NAM have been fulfilling and inspiring.

To my own daughters I would say, the real trophies and crowns in life are invisible. The only way to win them is to earn them by being brave, being kind, and willing to look silly. If it doesn’t go your way one day, find a reason to laugh, gather up the lessons you’ve earned like you’re on supermarket sweep, and leave the rest behind you with the trampled glitter on the stage. Hoard all those invisible trophies, girls. Hoard that confidence, because you earned it. Keep taking the kind of chances that make you more YOU.

*Very important disclaimer to anyone associated with a contestant: I will not be looking at social media beyond my own posts, so any attempts to message me are strictly forbidden and will be reported. In ten years, this has never been a problem thankfully! But this is a friendly reminder to keep it classy. I’ll be documenting the light, fun, behind the scenes moments that make this amazing thing I get to be part of with my fellow judges so meaningful to me. Professionalism and discretion are of paramount importance to the integrity of this amazing celebration of empowerment and promoting confidence. Every single one of these young ladies will be treated with the fairness and protection that I would expect for my own daughters. Thank you in advance for your understanding and respect.




Mrs. Kansas Pageant 2015

I had an exciting turn of events this year when I got a last-minute call to fill in as a judge for the Mrs. Kansas and Mrs. Missouri 2015 pageants. This was on my bucket list and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to help change someone’s life! That being said, I had no idea how difficult it would be.

Over the past 3 years, I’ve judged about a dozen pageants, but never at the Mrs. level. There’s something about being a married woman competing in a pageant that deserves mad respect. These women take good care of themselves and they believe in themselves, but they don’t take themselves so seriously as to think that competing in a pageant is beneath them. They believe that they can represent their state and are willing to go out on a limb to have a new adventure. They are accomplished business-owners, mothers, and volunteers who carry themselves with grace and pride. And this year especially, they were all bombshells. And they were each so lovely.

After getting to know each woman that day, I can honestly say they would have all brought something positive to the crown. I’m so happy for the winners and everyone who had the courage to compete!

I’ve heard from a few ladies who are curious about what pageants are like or already know they want to compete next year. If you have thought about it and want to pick my brain, email me! I’d love to talk you through it!

On to the pictures!

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Pageant Weekend 2014 (Red, White and Glitter)

Historic Missouri Theater

I have been so excited to post about yet another fabulous pageant weekend! This year it coincided with my Go Blog Social weekend so I was a busy bunny. Sunday afternoon I went to the Pepperologie brunch with Jessie Artigue at The Farm House in Rivermarket and from there I went straight to Missy’s house to get sequined up. (Missy is Mrs. Missouri 2010 and my pseudo big sister.) She just had a gorgeous baby girl a few weeks ago so she didn’t end up going to the pageant with me but she did take a few outfit pics for me and let me snuggle her baby Remington. Lately Avery and Savvy and I are like their weird roommates who are always just dropping in to say hi and staying for five hours.


A quick look back:


Did anyone else notice that I’m pregnant every other year? Who knows what 2015 will bring! Here I am glammed up for 2014 in a sequin dress from Cache, Shoes by Lela Rose, and Necklace is the Medina Bib by Stella and Dot

Stage before GO TIME!

As everyone knows, the opening number dance is my FAVORITE part of the pageant, because it’s the most fun to watch. I have to say this year I was somewhat disappointed. I don’t know if it was the fact that the choreography was too easy or maybe all of them were just super talented dancers, but they all actually looked pretty cute and sassy, rather than awkward and mortified like I probably looked (I don’t know, I’ve never watched the recording.) I do have this nice memento of my incompetence though…

Why was I doing the robot???

I snuck back stage right before the start of the show to get some candid shots of the girls waiting in the wings. Of course they were all composed and photo ready!

Behind-the-Scenes sneak peek right before opening number!
Opening Dance Number
Hot Mamas!
I really loved this gown and wish I had a better picture of it. It had a slit up one side for major sexiness!
With a contestant and the most delightful judge, a true Southern lady from Tennessee. I know 4 pageant women from Tennessee and they are all inexplicably elegant, smart, creative, classy, and stunningly gorgeous. There must be something in the Bourbon!
My friend Mallory Landry won Mrs. Missouri 2014! I first met her when I was pregnant with Avery and she was competing in 2011. I complimented her on her bikini bod and I almost died of jealousy when she said she had a 9 month old baby at home. I was like, teach me your waaays! She was actually a huge inspiration to me for getting in shape and staying in shape with my second baby. Thanks, Mal! I’m so happy for you!
This little cutie is the one and only Rachel Karwas who, throughout her reign as Mrs. Kansas has graciously volunteered her time (and gorgeous face!) for various charity causes I have roped her into and even posted a #JoeStrong picture for my friend. Look for her How Does She Do It feature coming up in the next few weeks. You do not want to miss her recommendations on abs and arms. She’s got celeb shoulders!
Last but not least, the STUNNING Mrs. Kansas 2014 Kristie Bowen!

As a sponsor of the pageant this year, I am going to be outfitting these ladies in some Stella and Dot must-haves and I am so looking forward to getting to know them even more. Having the Go Blog Social conference and the Pageant back-to-back in one weekend was so inspiring. I feel grateful to be a part of both of these crazy fun sub-cultures. It makes me so happy to know that there are classy, cool, smart women out there who are interested in making the world a better place and making themselves better people. The whole weekend made me feel proud that I am taking steps to make a life I truly feel grateful to be living.

Watch Over You Charm

I took a tour of the Veterans Hospital yesterday for Junior League and I almost didn’t go into one of the rooms because there was a nurse in there, but for some reason I felt a nudge that I should go in. This man was incredible. He was the male version of Sweet Brown. As he told me about his time in the service, I was hanging on his every word. He told me, life is all about choices. Even if you don’t choose exactly what happens to you in life, you choose how you deal with it. He said he doesn’t blame anyone else for what has happened in his life because he made all the choices to get there and he chooses to be happy he’s alive, even if he’s in a hospital bed 24 hours a day. It sounded so much better in his voice, because he was really animated and would throw a “Lawd, child” or a “Lawd, Jesus, thank you Jesus” in there periodically. He was fantastic. I told him I was so glad that I met him and that I was going to put his advice in my blog. As part of our tour, the Junior Leaguers handed out little flags that said ‘Thank you for your service from Junior League of Kansas City.’ At first I felt really pathetic handing him a little flag, but this man clutched it to his chest and he said, “This is my love flag. I love it. Thank you.” I realized that the flag was not intended to be a thank you gift for their service, it was a symbol of the idea that we cared, we felt honored to be in their presence, and that these soldiers were not forgotten just because they are no longer serving.

Just like the bloggers and pageant women who reminded me that life is about becoming the person you want to be and never losing yourself along the way, this man reminded me to go make some choices toward having a big life. And Lawd Jesus, thank you Jesus!

5 Things You Should NEVER Say To An Expectant Mother

Avery’s 2nd birthday got me thinking about how much I actually enjoyed the hospital experience when she was born and how much I am looking forward to the next one in just 6 short weeks!


Our first family picture

I always make a point to tell my friends who are expecting how EASY my labor was, because it’s so uncommon to hear positive labor stories. There’s something about getting a group of women together talking about childbirth that seems to bring out a bunch of Debbie Downers. I get that it is a momentous rite of passage and it can be a bonding experience to share details, but before you know it, you are just an innocent mommy-to-be all excited to talk about being pregnant and you are bombarded with labor horror stories.


5 things you should never say

Here are the top 5 things I wish people wouldn’t have told me when I was pregnant with Avery:


5. “The doctor told my neighbor’s cousin she was having a girl and it came out a boy!” Really. We just painted the room pink and have a closet full of monogrammed nonreturnable clothes and blankets that have been washed in special baby laundry detergent. I have been drafting her recommendation letter to Tri Delta and the wording for her wedding invitation. Here’s hoping your neighbor’s cousin has a sense of humor and was going for a neutral theme anyway. 


4.  “My epidural didn’t work.” Well, mine did! Didn’t feel a thing. Watched Golden Girls on DVD the whole day, chatted with the doctor between pushes, and didn’t break a sweat. So this turned out to be a totally unnecessary and unhelpful piece of information for me to worry about.


3. “I was in labor for 36 hours.” This is actually what my mom tells me every year on my birthday so I guess she has a right to say it. Apparently I was a horribly complicated C-section/NICU delivery. (Turns out birth and guilt are the gifts that keep on giving.) It doesn’t really matter how long you’re in labor, it matters how you are feeling during that time. 


2. Anything relating to a miscarriage or a baby that was born with health issues that is not your own experience. In my opinion, if it happened to you, it’s your reality to share or not. But I went to dinner with some girlfriends one night who were talking about a woman who lost her baby at the very end of her pregnancy. I smiled through dinner and then went home and cried and cried to my husband. Pregnancy makes you feel vulnerable and paranoid enough without hearing about all the bad things that have happened to someone else you don’t even know.


And the number one thing I wish I never heard…

1. “They accidentally left a sponge in me when they stitched me up.” SERIOUSLY? That can happen? Don’t you put that evil on me, Ricky Bobby!


So, who knows? Maybe I will have a terrible labor this time around, but I’m not going to stress about what might happen. I’m looking forward to experiencing all the sweet first moments with the new baby and sharing all the excitement and love she will bring into our lives.


My brother holding newborn Avery for the first time

So glad I got pictures of her in this cute onesie in the hospital because she outgrew it right away

That moment when you fall in love with your husband all over again


Only 6 weeks until Round 2!

Avery giving the baby belly a smooch


Pageant Weekend 2013!

WOW I had a blast at the 2013 Mrs. Kansas and Mrs. Missouri United States Pageants! 


Just shy of 6 months pregnant. The great thing about a sash is that it always fits!


Since Missy was a judge this year, she had to be there early. My mom and I decided to make a girl’s night out of it, so we headed up a little before the show to go out to dinner. This was my mom’s first time at the theater where I was crowned so I was really excited for her to go with me. 


My beautiful mother.


It was a great show, complete with an opening dance number which I personally find to be a mix of awkward/fabulous entertainment. 


Also, no one bombed their on-stage question or fell down.


One of my favorite parts of being in the pageant world is getting to catch up with the core group of women who I affectionately refer to as my “pageant friends.” I say this because if not for competing, I probably never would have met them. We are all in different phases of our lives, but there is a mutual respect and encouragement among these ladies because we have all put ourselves out there, for better or worse, and said to the world, “this is who I am.”


I will be honest, when I first heard about married women walking on a stage in gowns and bikinis to compete for a crown, I imagined that they probably did it because they were starved for attention, or quite frankly, had nothing else going on in their lives. For the most part, I could not have been more wrong.


One of the main reasons many women enter pageants is that once you win you are invited to make appearances at events in your community and you can use that notoriety to raise awareness for issues that are important to you personally. I have met extraordinary women who have survived cancer, lived through domestic violence, raised children with autism, built their own businesses, served in the military, and other amazing accomplishments who use their pageant experience to raise publicity and funds for extremely valuable charities and organizations. They know that with the crown, they can lift up the people they already care about, casting a wider net to potential donors and volunteers than they could on their own.


The other main reason I have heard from my pageant friends as to why they would put themselves through a beauty competition (and all the carb cravings leading up to it) is that after passing certain birthday milestones, having children, and focusing intensely on careers, they want to challenge themselves to do something that is just for them. I didn’t fully understand this when I was crowned Mrs. Kansas, because I was not yet a mother. Now I can understand why, after giving everything of yourself to your child (love, time, attention, food, rent-free space in your uterus, etc…) it feels good to put some of your energy back into improving the way you would like to represent yourself to the world as an individual. Ultimately, I think that when a woman feels good about herself because of her accomplishments and challenges faced, she is likely to be happier and more productive in all areas of her life, especially motherhood.


With all that being said, pageants are FUN! And life is short. So if you are thinking about competing, I strongly urge you to do it! After all, you have nothing to lose but your dignity…just kidding! (Unless you bomb your on-stage question or fall down.)


PICTURES: Mrs. Kansas and Mrs. Missouri United States 2013


My Kansas Princess

Former Mrs. Missouri United States, Missy Roe

Former Miss Kansas and Executive Director of Vanbros and Associates, Jennifer Vannatta-Fisher

Mrs. Lawrence, Rachel Karwas, after being crowned Mrs. Kansas 2013

Mrs. Kansas 2012, Celia Shea Thompson following in my footsteps of ending your reign with a big baby bump! 

The most exciting moment…Crowning!

Current and former Vanbros title-holders



Pageant Weekend 2013 Approaches

Time to get out of my yoga pants and dust off the old hair extensions, eyelashes, and 4 inch heels! 

This weekend is the 2013 Mrs. Kansas United States Pageant (as well as the Mrs. Missouri Pageant) and I will be attending for the 4th year in a row with Missy, my pseudo big sis and former Mrs. Missouri United States. She is the one who talked me into competing for Mrs. Kansas back in 2010. I had never had any pageant experience before, but I just jumped into it because honestly she could suggest just about anything and I would say yes. She is one of those friends who just “gets me” and we always have so much fun together! We both ended up winning our state titles and were roomies at the Mrs. United States pageant in Vegas. I have always looked up to Missy so it was incredibly special to be able to share this experience with her. Here are some of my favorite pictures from pageant years past…


2010: Backstage, right before we were crowned


2010: First official photo shoot as State Title-Holders

2010: Our Good-Luck-Send-Off Party before we competed at Nationals

 My sweet husband made a picture of our dog saying “Good Luck Mom!” to display.


Rehearsals in Vegas at Mrs. United States 2010


Yes, we met Carrot Top. Pretty sure he, alone, had more plastic surgery and make up than the entire contestant pool of Mrs. United States candidates. In the words of Ron Burgundy, “I’m not even mad; that’s amazing.”

2010: Opening number dresses

2010: Stage

2010: Bikini babes…keep in mind, a lot of these women have had multiple children and some are over 40 years old. Talk about INSPIRING!!!

Two of my favorite sorority sisters came out to support me along with my husband, parents, in-laws, and family friends. We had a fun crew!

2011: Returning to crown our successors. And yes, I am literally 9 months pregnant with my daughter Avery at this point. I gave birth to her a few days later. I waited to buy my dress until that day because I didn’t know if I would actually make it to the pageant or not!

2011: Crowning the Newbies

 2012: Returning as Alum



I am so looking forward to finding out who will get the crown this weekend. Her life will be changed and her fears will be faced, knowing that she had the confidence to put herself out there and represent her life, work, and family proudly and will be given the opportunity to represent women across her entire state. After all, aside from the fun wardrobe, make up, and hair stuff, and the slightly less fun dance routine (yes, there is dancing required) the pride and confidence in representing the person you have become is what pageants should really be about…