Jackie and John McKenna celebrated the fifth anniversary of their roles as co-directors of the Mrs. Nevada America pageant in their very favorite way: by putting on the 2013 pageant at the Suncoast Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on February 24th. 2012 had been an exceptional year for the system: Kristie Jelinsky, the 2012 title-holder, had placed in the top 12 at nationals, continued as a board member and strong supporter of Susie Monahan’s Project Teddy, founded the Rock of Hope scholarship charity, and contributed her efforts to support countless other Nevada charities. The showroom was oversold, and management had to put in five rows of extra seating to handle the overflow crowd. An extraordinary show was promised - and delivered.
The opening production number, entitled “Diamonds”, featured all of the contestants and each of the last four Mrs. Nevada America winners, all wearing showgirl-bride costumes that Kristie described as “risqué, but fun!”. The crowd clearly agreed.
As the pageant proceeded and special prizes were announced, some clear favorites emerged. Natasha Isom-Stratton set the tone when it was announced that she had won the prize for best interview, which was 50% of the judging score. She followed it up by winning Mrs. Congeniality, had the highest ad sales for the program, highest ticket sales (as everyone could tell by the loud group of supporters there to cheer for her), and the People’s Choice award. Host Chet Buchanan joked that she was demonstrating her fitness and health platform just in the exercise she got coming forward to get her awards.
But the night was not over. Sephora Louder won as Most Photogenic, no small achievement in a pageant. And Ruth Gray won the community service award, which is very important in the Miss America system and to the judges, as well as the fitness award. Game on.
When the top four were announced, and they included two women who were returning after competing the previous year. Both Tanice Smith and Katie Ladomerszky had remained active in supporting the charitable work of the Mrs. Nevada America pageant, as well as being active in their own causes: Tanice putting together a program to fight obesity, as well as becoming director of her own pageant, and Katie as a board member for the Southern Nevada March of Dimes, and was active with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Henderson. Natasha and Ruth rounded out the top four, to nobody’s surprise.
And then, as they say, came the moment that the crowd had all been waiting for. Tanice took third runner-up, Natasha second, and Katie and Ruth stood center stage, holding hands and trembling, waiting for the announcement of the winner. It was Ruth, and her own large contingent of fans let everyone know how pleased they were.
Ruth is married to Jon Gray, and they have a 20-month old son, Nash. Ruth’s platform is “Healthy Habits”, and she is a Fit for Life Mentor who works with children in a sports and agility training program at Phase 1 Sports. She lives what she teaches: Ruth has run seven marathons, is qualified for the Boston Marathon, and expects to compete again in June. She has an identical twin sister, Ryan, and both women are successful, agency-represented models as well as running marathons together.
As Kristie Jelinsky and other Mrs. Nevada America winners of the past have discovered, the demands of holding the title are considerable. Perhaps, with a winner with an identical twin, the pageant may have finally discovered how to have Mrs. Nevada America be in two places at once.