Feryl York started competing in pageants as a teenager because she hoped the contest would pay off, in the form of college scholarships.
She got back into pageants more than a decade later to raise money again, this time for others.
“This crown just really gives you a huge microphone to talk about what is important to you,” York told KCRG-TV9’s Nicole Agee in an interview broadcast Monday.
In York’s case, the cause “near and dear” to her heart is cancer research — specifically the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
She first “dusted off her stilettos” in 2009, the year after her mother was diagnosed with leukemia.
“That was the prime reason I got back involved,” she says.
She competed in 2010 in the Mrs. International contest and was crowned Mrs. Iowa International, which led to a competition in Chicago.
This week, she’s back in the spotlight. She is in Arizona today representing Iowa in the Mrs. American contest.
While the competition is just getting started — contestants focus on community service projects between now and Sunday when preliminary competitions start — it has been the weeks and months leading up to the pageant that motivate York.
“It’s been a whirlwind,” she says. “We’ve put on lots and lots of miles already, which is great. It really has allowed me to travel across the Midwest and most recently the Iowa State Fair. I have lived here for, I believe, 15 years — and that’s embarrassing to say — but it’s the first time I’ve been there. It does not disappoint.”
Every trip — including last week’s to Des Moines — is a chance to advocate and raise funds for cancer research.
“That’s what we do this for,” she says.
The Mrs. America competition was started in 1977. All the 51 delegates — one from each states plus the District of Columbia — must be between 20 and 50 years old and be married. The winner represents the United States at Mrs. World in December in Florida. No Iowan has ever won the title.
For York, the Mrs. America contest starts Sunday with interviews.
On Monday, contestants will compete in the preliminary round, which includes state costume, swimsuit and evening gown. On Aug. 28, it is narrowed down to a final 12.
The pageant will be webcast online at MrsAmerica.com.
“That is what I would love for everyone to do, cross their fingers and toes and log on and cheer on Iowa,” York says.