All little girls have it. It’s a dream.
For me, it’s the one where my name is called as I’m being sashed and crowned Miss America.
In May of 2013 that dream started to take shape when I became a semi-finalist in the Mrs. America pageant.
I can’t express to you the excitement at the thought of being on stage again. To think that I may be the next Mrs. America had me grinning nonstop for weeks. I’d been shopping for dresses, accessories, you name it and there were plenty of new challenges to consider.
If you’re curious how this all came about, or maybe you just want to see me twirling fire, just keep reading.
This page was created to explain my drive to compete, and specifically my drive to compete in the pageant world. Below you’ll find a little bit more info about me. :)
Hi there and welcome! My name is Marla Sarris and I competed as a contestant in the Mrs. Illinois America pageant on May 18th, 2013. This page was created to give you some details about my background and my participation in this event.
A Little Backstory First
My parents started me off modeling when I was just a baby and when I was 4 they entered me in my first Junior Miss America pageant. When my name was called to strut my stuff, I was so excited that I flew past all the judges and practically ran across the stage. Needless to say, my excitement and nerves got the better of me but I was hooked on the thrill of competition.
I grew up in Bensenville, IL and I have always been active and involved in the town. From the age of 5 through college I competed as a solo baton twirler and won the IL state title for my solo in 1995 and 1999. I convinced my junior high band director to let me twirl in front of the band during town parades, instead of playing my flute. When I got to high school it took a bit more convincing but I managed to get our band director to agree to allow me to twirl for football games in addition to town parades. In my senior year there were more girls younger than me interested in twirling and a drill team was created (twirlers and flags combined). After four years of asking, I was finally given permission to twirl fire baton on the field during the half time homecoming game of my senior year. I was ecstatic because of this accomplishment! Fire baton became a normal occurrence at my high school and is still allowed today. If not for my persistence my sister may not have been able to twirl fire with the drill team, seven years after I graduated.
Starting in first grade all the way through senior year of high school I was also involved in Girl Scouts. I earned the Girl Scout Gold Award for creating, developing and carrying out a course for young children to learn how to type. The Girl Scout Gold Award is the highest achievement a GS can earn. In my years as a Girl Scout I volunteered many hours of my time. As a senior in high school I was presented with the Prudential Spirit of the Community Award for excellence in community service. I was honored with my medal by Miss America 2000 and my interest in pageants was renewed, just briefly.
I attended Elmhurst College with my (now) husband Jeff, graduated with a BA in Mathematics and a minor in Psychology and immediately went to work at the high school I graduated from, teaching a summer school mathematics course. Within a month I was offered a full time position teaching at Stevenson High School, which is actually the only school I applied to. For six years I devoted every waking moment to my teaching career, helping my students to understand math as best as I could explain it. Stevenson treated me well but my other interests started to pull me away from teaching.
In 2008 Jeff & I were married and after I left Stevenson I had more time to focus on my health. Around the start of the next year, we went Paleo. In between leaving the teaching profession and launching SPYR Media, LLC Jeff & I started many different businesses. In 2012, with the release of my first cookbook, Pigskin Paleo, after losing 60 pounds from living the Paleo lifestyle for 3 years, I finally felt confident to take the plunge back into the pageant scene.
Being married, the Miss America pageant was no longer an option for me. But, when one door closes another door opens. If Miss America wasn’t a possibility the Mrs. America pageant was my new goal. I applied to compete in 2012 and was finally going after the crown I always wanted. And what better way to represent the Paleo lifestyle and all of Illinois’ married women than promoting through the Mrs. America pageant? :)
The pageant has come and gone and I had a fabulous time being back on stage! Thank you to all those who supported me in this endeavor and if you’d like to see photos from the event, I’ve posted an album on Google+ here. :)