Pageant contestant not centered on beauty

By PENNY FLETCHER

Teresa Hyatt of Hillsborough County has taken her volunteering with the American Cancer Society to a whole new level as she competes for the title of Mrs. International.

Teresa Hyatt of Hillsborough County has taken her volunteering with the American Cancer Society to a whole new level as she competes for the title of Mrs. International.

Unlike most pageants where women get dressed up, wear bathing suits and show off their talents, the Mrs. International Pageant stresses charities and causes.

“It’s all about platform,” said Teresa Hyatt during an Aug. 9 interview at her home. “We don’t wear bathing suits or perform. There’s no dancing and singing. This pageant gives us a chance to gain recognition for something we believe in and want to help.”

Although the contestants do have an evening gown competition, more than 50 percent of the “grade” comes from the interview portion of the competition, and Hyatt, Mrs. Apollo Beach, is more than ready for that.

“My mission is to promote, educate and raise awareness of cancer,” Hyatt said. “I lost my brother Rick in 2003 to bone cancer, my mother in 2007 to breast cancer, and in 2012, my dad died of bone cancer. My sister Karen is a four-time cancer survivor. She’s recently been diagnosed with T-cell lymphoma.”

Hyatt said that her family history puts her in a high-risk category as well.
That’s why she chose to enter the competition, and her whole family is involved.

She and her husband Don are native Floridians — a rare find in this state of transplants. Born and raised in Melbourne, they moved to Hillsborough County three years ago with their three sons, Jacob, Michael and Joseph, who range in age from 10 to 14, and are all homeschooled.

Retired from a job in quality control, Hyatt is a national representative and advocate for the American Cancer Society, with which she has been volunteering for 11 years.

The couple married in 1994 after meeting at the tae kwon do class where Don owned the business and was an instructor.

Hyatt decided to take self-defense after having a narrow escape with an attacker, and as she says about her now-husband, “it was love at first sight.”

Now the two teach self-defense to neighbors and friends for free. Both say knowing self-defense is a confidence builder and that it helps children and adults with their self-esteem.

“We do just about everything as a family,” said Teresa. “Don and the boys are preparing me for this pageant. They help decide what I should wear, and listen to me talk about my platform.”

Her immediate goal is to compete and win in the state competition of Mrs. International so she can take her platform to Nationals.

According to the website, www.mrsinternational.com, the pageant’s goal is to showcase   women who have been married at least six months and have a “platform” about which they wish to educate others. Contestants must be between the ages of 21 and 56 and be residents of the community that they represent.

The way the contest is structured, 25 percent of the score is earned through evening gown competition, during which poise and grace are rated higher than physical beauty; 25 percent is judged while they are wearing fitness outfits, the purpose of this portion being health, not just looks. But the big 50 percent of the “grade” comes from the interview competition.

Husbands are part of the event, escorting their wives in the evening gown competition, then appearing later as the husband of the winner publicly crowns his wife.

“She’s a mom on a mission,” said her husband Don. “M.O.M. Mom on a mission to help find a cure.”

Hyatt detailed her mission this way: “I want to win so I can promote my platform, cancer awareness. My motto is ‘early detection saves lives.’ If I can save one life, I’ll feel I have memorialized those I’ve lost.”

This competition is not part of the Miss America, Mrs. America or Ms. Senior America pageants and does not have the same requirements for entry as any of the others.

“It’s all about platform, platform, platform,” Hyatt said.

To find out more about the competition or how to enter, visit www.mrsinternational.com.

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