Rhode Island won the Miss USA pageant for the first time this year, and now Karen McCahey is hoping to bring her own title back to Johnston, as she competes for the Mrs. Rhode Island crown.
“I was looking up pageants online one day and I just thought, ‘This is something I could do.’ I want to have some fun with this,” she said.
The 41-year-old Johnston resident has never been in a pageant before, and doesn’t intend on making a career of it, but thought it would be something fun to do for herself. She is just getting back to work after being a stay-at-home mom to her two children, 10-year-old Gianna and 8-year-old Thomas, and she’s ready for a little “me” time.
“I don’t think you realize how much you get when you go to work. It boosts your self-esteem. You don’t get any feedback when you’re home. You can lose yourself,” she said.
The needs of her children have always come first, and McCahey has been involved at their school with the PTO and volunteering for school events or field trips. Now that her children are getting older, she has more time to explore her own interests.
“I spent my 30s at home, doing things for other people; now, I’m going into my 40s and it’s time for me to spend some time for me,” she said. “I’m putting myself back together.”
McCahey started a new job Monday as a secretary at Rhode Island Hospital, where she had worked part-time over the past year. She is grateful that her hours, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., will still allow her to drop her kids off and pick them up from school.
Spending time with her family is a priority, and she believes that is a quality that Mrs. Rhode Island should have.
“Mrs. Rhode Island should care about her kids, her family and her community,” she said. “Someone who wants to make not only her state, but her town look good.”
As for her own family, McCahey is guaranteed to have a strong cheering section in the pageant. For Mother’s Day this year, her kids gave her a handmade card that said, “Thanks for doing a great job being my mom.” She keeps a picture of the card on her cell phone, and wants to have the image printed on a T-shirt.
McCahey hopes to set an example for her daughter, teaching her to be comfortable and confident in her own skin.
“I want her to see me try to do my best, and I want to show her that it’s OK to get out there,” adding that competing in the pageant will show both of her children the importance of putting yourself out there. “Even if you don’t win, just to get up there is a major accomplishment.”
The Mrs. Rhode Island pageant does not include a talent portion, but McCahey will compete in swimsuit, evening gown and interview segments. She plans to meet with a pageant coach for pointers, but admits that the thought of being on stage is nerve-wracking. Appearing on stage in front of a crowd is a big motivator, though, and McCahey is using the pageant as an opportunity to lose weight. She wakes up at 5:30 every morning and walks and jogs, and is working on strength training. Already, she has dropped three sizes.
“I haven’t even bought a bathing suit this year. The thought of going out on stage in a bathing suit – that’s scary,” she said, laughing. “You want to look muscular and strong, and that’s the best way to keep [the weight] off too.”
Interview too, she said, will be a challenge.
“The interview, I think, is going to be just as important as anything else,” she said. “I think a lot of times it comes down to confidence.”
McCahey is looking forward to meeting the other contestants prior to the pageant, both to get a feel of what the organization is about and also to meet other women her age who are not afraid to put themselves out there.
“I’m definitely nervous and excited,” she said.
Competing in a pageant is not cheap, however, and McCahey is hoping for some help from the community. Pageant fees are $600 to start, not including the cost of a new swimsuit, formal gown, shoes and consulting fees from a pageant coach. Rep. Steve Ucci (D-Dist. 43), a friend from their days at St. Rocco School, has already signed on as a sponsor, and McCahey is looking for local businesses and individuals to commit what they can to help her journey to the crown.
Now that she has put herself in the spotlight, McCahey says she has a lot of respect for her first sponsor.
“I didn’t realize how hard it is to put yourself out there. I give him a lot of credit now,” she said.
She hopes to have everything lined up – sponsors, her weight loss, the dress, etc. – by December so she can focus on practicing before the March 2013 pageant.
“I really want to have everything tied up by December. I want to do a good job,” she said. “I want to see this through.”
To contact Karen McCahey about sponsorship opportunities or more information, visit MrsJohnstonRI.yolasite.com or email MrsJohnstonRI@gmx.com.