Did you ever wonder how someone becomes Mrs. Illinois? What exactly are her duties? We talked with the newly crowned Mrs. Illinois International 2012 Christine Garcia--who was crowned in a ceremony at the College of DuPage in Glen Ellyn--fresh off her victory to find out:
Q: So did you always want to be Mrs. Illinois?
A: No! My husband casually mentioned it to me after I'd lost the baby weight from my fourth daughter. He said, "You look great. You should apply for it."
Q: How did you lose the baby weight?
A: It was harder with my fourth but I did Weight Watchers and exercised every day. Sometimes I did two workouts a day. I really wanted to be healthy.
Q: How does someone go about entering this pageant?
A: You have to send in a photo and fill out an application. They want you to have a platform that shows you are involved in your community and an active volunteer.
Q: Your platform is "character education." What is that exactly?
A: In my community we have something called "Character Counts," which highlights the six pillars of character—trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship. These help build and form a solid foundation for our youth. We do this in Elmhurst with children who range from pre-school age to high school and every month we have free workshops that focus on each pillar. So it helps them understand how good grades help and what it means to be a team player and respecting each other. It's giving kids examples of positive character. That's what I want for my own kids so I hope to spread this to other communities.
Q: Will this be your full time job now? Do you get paid?
A: I don't get to quit my job for this, no. I will still be keeping my job running a public relations company, be a mom to my kids, a wife, and I'll do appearances or talks on the side. I promised to have a plan of action of trying to get "Character Counts" throughout the state so I have to contact different schools and reach out to anyone who will listen. And next year, I will compete in Mrs. Illinois International which will have people from every state represented so that will be very exciting.
Q: Where you nervous during the pageant?
A: Yes! Being up on that stage in front of a crowd was really intimidating. There were five female judges, three of the five were former title holders—so I was very nervous because they're going to be the toughest ones. But I got to meet with them afterwords and they were very nice.
Q: What did your husband say?
A: He crowned me. The husbands had to go through crowning school, which was a 15-minute crash course on learning how to put it on the right way.
Q: And your daughters?
A: They keep asking to take turns wearing the crown.
Q: Do you worry this is sending a negative message to your daughters about beauty and setting standards that might be hard to reach?
A: I'm showing them how hard work pays off. I have had such support from everyone—my family, my neighbors, or fellow moms. They see me running in the community, and they know I worked hard to get back in shape. Being a healthy mom and a healthy wife it makes me feel better—so hopefully it's more of an inspiration.