The Crooked Crown
Many little girls dream of being in beauty pageants; some teenage girl's dream of becoming Miss America. Heidi Crawford's dream of being a beauty pageant winner started in her 30's!
Heidi grew up in Arroyo Grande, California. At the age of seven, Heidi's family moved to the state of Utah, but then returned back to the Central Coast when she was ten, where Heidi was able to attend Margaret Harloe Elementary. She graduated from Arroyo Grande High School, where she was an active, vibrant cheer leader, the editor of the school newspaper, and for a short time played on the golf team. She states, "There was a cute guy on the team I liked, so I played:" Heidi was also very active in her church youth group at New Life Community Church. The group once a year went on mission trips to Mexicali, Mexico. This was a very fun and exciting time in her life.
The Life Changing Event
When she was 28, Heidi's best friend Letitia passed away. This was a major turning event in her life. She was very close to Letitia, who had Sickle Cell Anemia, and was taken away too early. Heidi said, "After my friend died, I realized that I needed to live my life for both Letitia and myself. My main mission and purpose became to live life to its fullest." This life changing event is where Heidi found the courage and strength to enter the 2003 Mrs Missouri America Pageant. She had recently gotten married, was now known as Heidi Dinan, and had relocated to Missouri with her husband and young daughter. She decided to take the plunge into this fantastic pageant opportunity. The state pageant competition was very intense and she was going up against some stiff competition. The contestants were all very ambitious as she faced 24 amazing, talented, and smart competitors. Heidi had no idea what was in store for her, but she was willing to work hard and go for the win. Why not? In her own words, Heidi said, "I had nothing to lose from this pageant, and only everything to gain from the entire experience. Plus, I was making new friends!"
The Mrs Missouri America Pageant
The Pageant was comprised of three categories. The interview made up 50% of the judging, 25% was based on their evening gowns, and the swim suit competition was the final 25%. Preparing for the pageant was an enormous amount of hard work. Heidi says she would run five miles six days a week and maintained a healthy diet. Ironically, Heidi says she ate ice cream at night as motivation to keep running those long miles. She had nine different types of ice cream in the freezer that she could pick from each night! Another motivator was a book she read titled, "The Four Agreements," by Don Miguel Ruiz. Heidi had read about it in an interview with Ellen DeGeneres in the Oprah Winfrey Magazine about how much this book had helped Ellen in her own life. This book helped Heidi stay balanced, grounded, and to not over think the competition. She reports initially entering the pageant to simply give it her best effort, not necessarily to win. The pageant was extremely intimidating and was very involved. Heidi mentioned that some of the women in these beauty pageants can be a little overzealous and competitive. Nevertheless, Heidi was there to have fun! The pageant was about working with charities, raising awareness, being part of the community, and attending special events. For this competition each contestant had to pick their own charitable organization to work with, so Heidi chose "Mercy Ministries". The charity worked with girls who had drug problems, eating disorders,unplanned pregnancies and more. If she successfully made it to the top five contestants, her charity would receive $200.00, but since Heidi won the entire state level Mrs. Missouri America Pageant, her charity received $700.00. This contribution was very helpful to the charity as they had a lot of women in need. They were grateful to her and happy for her success.
State of Missouri Cowgirl Costume
The National Mrs. America Pageant in Hawaii
Winning the Mrs Missouri America title came with a lot of responsibility and role modeling for youth. Heidi did a lot of volunteering after the state competition; then it was off to the Big Kahuna, the National Mrs. America Pageant. The Nationals were in Honolulu Hawaii at the Hilton Hawaiian Village. Heidi took it all in stride, met the Governor of Hawaii,rode in parades, saw new parts of Oahu, and made a lot of new friends. She was still running her daily five miles and eating ice cream. Part of her preparation involved rehearsing in her mind possible interview questions. Heidi would imagine being on stage and envisioned how she would answer each and every question from the judges.An actual interview questions that was asked was "where do you find the most joy in life?" Heidi's response in the pageant interview was "from her family and the spirit of Aloha." She embraced the Hawaiian culture and the feelings that encompassed Aloha. For the evening gown part of the competition, Heidi wore a sleek and very elegant gown with a train in back. When the final swimsuit was to be exhibited, Heidi wore a burgundy Carol Wior Slimsuit. When she moved up to the top five contestants, she received a turquoise swimsuit to wear.
During the National Pageant, each contestant had to wear a costume reflecting the state they represented. Representing Missouri, Heidi wore a cowgirl costume, which included a white cowgirl hat with the St. Louis Missouri arch decal on top, white cowgirl boots, and a holster with beautifully painted white cap guns. As her personal trademark, she would blow into the cap guns stating "From Missouri, celebrating the home of the Gateway to the West". Then a traumatic event took place right before she was to enter the main stage to show her state costume. The contestant directly in front of her had a heavy topped feathery costume. This contestant accidentally fell back into Heidi and landed on her foot, hurting her large toe. Heidi was in excruciating pain, but maintained her poise. She was in so much pain that she almost couldn't bear it, but she knew it was critical in this part of the competition and had to put on a happy face, a big smile, and grimace through the pain, which she successful accomplished. Heidi knew if she was not successful in pulling it off and showed the pain, she could be eliminated by the judges. Heidi was placed as number six in the top ten. This was a relief and she viewed being in the top ten as a major achievement. Then Heidi was moved by the judges from the top ten to the top five as she was announced number five of the five remaining contestants!
Prior to all of this that morning of the National Mrs. America Pageant during breakfast with her family,Heidi's daughter Kelsi asked her, "Mom, when you win can I come up on the stage with you?" Heidi frantically took her daughter into the bathroom and told her "Don't be sad Kelsi, but I won't win" Kelsi would have no part of that and still insisted on going up on the stage when her mom won. Heidi just gave in and said "Okay Kelsi, if I win you can come up on the stage with me." Deep down inside Heidi truly did not believe she would win and be crowned Mrs. America.
The final question of the pageant came from the judges: "Who do you look up to as a female role model?" Heidi's answer was "Helen Keller" Heidi had remembered quotes and ironically had read a lot of books about Helen Keller in preparation for the pageant. She answered and concluded by quoting Helen Keller; "Keep your face to the sunshine and you won't see the shadows" The judges took a ten minute recess and tallied up all the top five contestants' votes. The host started by announcing the runners up. Then it was now just the final two contestants standing side by side waiting in palm sweating suspense- Heidi (Mrs. Missouri) and Mrs. Utah. The announcement for the first runner up rang out…and it was Mrs. Utah! Heidi's first thought was "Oh my gosh, my daughter is jumping on her chair and she needs to get down." Then she realized Kelsi was jumping up and down with joy and excitement as her Mom had just won Mrs. America 2004! Heidi was in shock, but was able to fulfill her daughter Kelsi's dream of getting up on stage with her. Heidi was happily crowned Mrs. America 2004, however her crown kept slipping sideways and sitting crooked. Heidi laughs about it now because almost every picture she has from that night shows the crown tilted on one side or the other. She received for winning Mrs. America some very generous prizes, had paid appearances, and her charitable organization received money from the sponsors.
My Winning Moment
Mom, Kelsi, and I on stage after win
Hal Linden and Florence Henderson pageant hosts, posing with me after win
A Dream Come True!
Living The Dream And Life As Mrs. America
After winning Mrs. America she went on a massive sponsor paid tour from Chicago to California, then all across the United States. She would speak to the children and provide the message of "teaching youth to follow their dreams." Of course she also made appearances at her daughter's school.
One of her most memorable appearances was at Whiteman Air Force Base. On the base, she read to children at the Air Force base day care. Heidi said, "It was fun and I got to take a base tour with my daughter Kelsi. The base was the home of the B-2 Stealth Bombers". She and Kelsi got to go inside of a B-2 Bomber and also fly a flight simulator. Kelsi was the star that day, and the airmen really spoiled her. The Air force personnel just loved Kelsi.
That same year (2004) Heidi worked with the State of Missouri youth girls that had been assigned as Ambassadors to the new Missouri Princess Pageant. Heidi crowned the little Ambassadors as state royalty. Kelsi was selected as one of the little princesses. Kelsi's title was "Junior Miss Missouri Princess". Kelsi, her daughter, was with her in every parade while she was in Missouri. Heidi also got to be a coach at the second princess pageant.
Since the 2004 Mrs. America Pageant, Heidi looks at the entire experience as a foundation setting tool to her next adventures in life. That dream-like experience has helped her shine brighter, get more true, not be fearful of speaking in front of large groups, be more sociable, and to really look at the pageant in whole as a wonderful and exciting chapter in her life. Heidi views her experience as a great time. She does admit after all the traveling, responsibility, and speaking engagements, that it was very nice to pass on the crown to a new Mrs. America. "One small thing can make a big difference in other people's lives," was her motto throughout her entire experience as Mrs. America.
Aloha Day at Kelsi's School
Rory and Hershel-An Incredibly Swell Snail Tale
What Is The 2004 Mrs. America Winner Doing Now?
Today, Heidi enjoys being an author of Children's books. Her two books are named "Rory and Hershel-An Incredibly Swell Snail Tale" and the second book is "Morkle the Turtle and his Teddy Bear." Both of these books are on Amazon.com and Barnes and Noble.com. Heidi enjoys being an author because, "You can share your voice and who you are as a story teller." She views being a writer as an expression of one's self.
Heidi now works for the State of California- Department of Transportation as a Project Manager Assistant. She feels like she has a lot more things to accomplish in the future and is very serious about her current career. Heidi jokingly says the pageant was "playing." She is now bearing down and working hard to prepare for her retirement in the years to come. She thoroughly enjoys being a wife, mother, and is glad to be set in her career. Her daughter Kelsi is now grown up and she is encouraging, motivating, and cheering Kelsi on with her college education. Heidi wants to eventually be promoted to a Public Information Officer, as she enjoys being in the public, contributing to her agency, and the community. Heidi also is a member of Toastmasters San Luis Obispo Chapter. She wants to encourage others to seek out what is in their hearts and if there is a good opportunity, "Take a leap of faith and shine!"
I want to especially thank Heidi Crawford-Ruiz for allowing me to interview her about her experience as 2004 Mrs. America and giving me permission to use her photographs, which were taken by the amazing pageant photographer Don Seidman at Heidi's win of the 2004 Mrs. America title.