Editor’s Note: Every summer when Robin Leach is away on his annual Italian family vacation, he invites his Las Vegas VIP friends to contribute a guest column. As Robin explores the Lido beach clubs outside Ostuni today, we welcome reigning Mrs. Nevada-America beauty queen Lauren Cahlan and Prince tribute artist Jason Tenner. Here’s Lauren:
By Lauren Cahlan
“And the winner is …”
Whether you’re waiting to hear your name called for an Oscar, Olympic gold medal or the lottery, there are phrases in life that will make your heart nearly stop. This is one of them. In my case, this was heard during a beauty pageant. I am Lauren Cahlan, Mrs. Nevada-America 2016.
That moment of suspense and incessant jitters was well worth what followed next. “And the winner is … Mrs. Summerlin, Lauren Cahlan!” The moment I had imagined and hoped for a million times in my head was happening — for real this time. My life was about to change dramatically, for the better.
Being Mrs. Nevada-America was a dream a long time in the making. My mother, Jill Barnhart, was Mrs. Oklahoma-America 1993 (among other titles throughout the years).
As a little girl at the time, I was enamored by the sparkly crown and distinguished sash, so much so that those items were my go-to while playing dress up. Her Mrs. America souvenir T-shirt became my oversized sleep shirt. She toted me around to appearances, and I watched her give back to our community.
She was, and is, my greatest role model. So it was no surprise then when my two younger sisters, Victoria and Britney, and I decided to “follow in Mom’s high heels” (as stated by the very wise Robin Leach) and pursue pageantry.
Among the four of us, we have won dozens of titles throughout the years. Even my dad, Bob Barnhart of Luxurious Real Estate, got into the action providing us with honest feedback and unwavering support. And now my wonderful husband, Shaun, is along for the ride, and I’m so thankful that he’s my rock.
I think that it’s important to note the positive, lasting impact that pageantry has on contestants and our community. People might only see the glitz and glamour. Don’t get me wrong, that part is amazing, but what really matters is giving back to the community through service, being a role model to young girls and making a lasting impact.
There also are so many skills that are learned in pageantry — confidence, the ability to speak well in front of groups and to set and attain goals. These are all elements that have been so important to me in my career as a senior account executive at Wicked Creative Public Relations.
We titleholders are out and about in our communities reveling in the opportunity to make an impact. Throughout my time as Mrs. Nevada-America and before, I have had the opportunity to give back to our community through organizations such as Special Olympics, Ronald McDonald House, Child Focus, Best Buddies and The Shade Tree.
A cause I hold near and dear is children’s literacy and education in our state. I’ve been a featured speaker and guest reader at schools in our community. I also have had the privilege to garner support and fundraise for Victoria’s Voice, named in honor of Victoria Siegel, who passed away last year. The organization provides support to those affected by substance abuse, as well as resources for drug prevention, counseling and more.
On Aug. 27, I will be competing for the title of Mrs. America 2016. I will be standing on the same stage as my mother did 23 years ago. To be able to compete at a national level at the most prestigious pageant system for married women is surreal. I won’t take a moment of it for granted.
The national pageant is at Westgate Las Vegas — am I lucky or what?! The winner of Mrs. America will go on to compete at Mrs. World in Incheon, South Korea, in October. I have my passport ready just in case. 🙂
The Mrs. America system, directed by the wonderful David and Elaine Marmel, is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. It is a blessing to be able to compete during such a monumental milestone. Pageantry is an amazing thing. It will enable you to grow as a person while also giving back to others.
If you’ve ever considered entering a pageant, the time is now! The state director of the Nevada pageant is the amazing Jackie McKenna, who will make the experience a memorable and rewarding one.
If you are interested in learning more, check out MrsNevadaAmerica.com and email Jackie McKenna at MrsNevada@yahoo.com. The next pageant for Mrs. Nevada-America 2017 is March 5 at Suncoast.
Even though my year will end with the crowning of my successor, I will remain a part of a sisterhood deeply rooted in the values of community service, caring for others and supporting one another.
Be sure to check out our other guest column today from Jason Tenner, who performs as Prince in PURPLE REIGN at Westgate Las Vegas and reflects on the music legend. Next week, it’s chef’s week as our leading kitchen kings and queens serve up tasty treats from the leading restaurants in Las Vegas.