There is a crowning second act in pageantry

By MIKE CHAIKEN

EDITIONS EDITOR

This new Mrs. Connecticut United States had thought her days of competitions were over.

Debbie Manente competed for years in the Miss America Organization, starting at age 17.

But the Bristol resident is now a wife to Sly and a stepmom to Peyton. And she has a busy career where she works to help people prepare for job interviews and write resumes.

So, pageants—although having accounted for a considerable part of her life—were the farthest thing from her mind.

But then she received a phone call from a friend who asked if she’d be interested in competing in the Mrs. Connecticut United States pageant, which was to be held April 24 in Rhode Island.

Debbie said she wasn’t certain about entering. It had been a while since she had competed in a pageant, she explained.

She said her thoughts were, “I’m not ready for this. There’s a lot of preparation involved. I don’t know if I have the time.”

But Debbie said her husband intervened with an argument that convinced her to give it a go.

Debbie said Sly told her, “This is a great excuse for you to get into shape and celebrate it.”

After hearing what her husband had to say, Debbie said she decided to enter the pageant.

“I hired a personal trainer, lost 40 pounds, just so I could feel comfortable in being in a bathing suit,” said Debbie. She also hired an interview coach.

“The moment I stood on the stage, I had to hold myself, to keep myself from crying because of all the hard work I did.”

Besides the opportunity to get into shape, Debbie said she entered the pageant to help stem the tide of negativity toward pageants. “It’s always been there,” explained Debbie. But a recent television show “really bashed it.”

And when she sat down with the judges, Debbie said she told them she wanted “to show people (pageantry) is not what you see on television. The sisterhood is important to me. (As are) the mission statement… and being a brand ambassador for the sponsors.”

After competing in onstage question, interview, evening gown, and swimsuit, at the end of the evening, right before they announced the winners, Debbie said she was thinking to herself, “Let’s hurry up and get this over with.”

Debbie explained she did something she never did as a younger pageant participant. When she was younger, she told the judges what she thought they wanted to here. But this time around, she said she spoke her mind. She joked with the judges. She allowed herself to be herself.

“I didn’t think I was going to win because of that,” said Debbie.

So when they announced her as the new Mrs. Connecticut United States winner, Debbie said, “What ran through my mind was, ‘Really?’ And I was myself?”

Now that she is Mrs. Connecticut United States, Debbie will be heading to Las Vegas from Aug. 1 to 4 to compete in Mrs. United States, where there are 63 contestants expected. “I’ve been reaching out to the other Mrs. winners to get to know before Las Vegas,” said Debbie.

As for her hopes for the pageant, Debbie said, “I’d like to be in the top 15. It’s very competitive though. If it happens, great.”

“I’ll do my best to make sure my mind doesn’t mess with me and I have a good time,” said Debbie.

For more information about the Mrs. United States pageant, go to www.mrsunitedstates.comdebbie manente