The short answer is yes. Many Ms./Mrs. divisions allow for contestants to compete while pregnant. For example, in 2004, Mrs. Rhode Island America Traci Clemens competed on the Mrs. America stage six months pregnant with twins. She was the first visibly pregnant contestant to compete in the televised event.
Likewise, Mrs. Kansas America 2013 Elizabeth Stephens was also pregnant during her reign.
However, it is still not very common. This is partly because competing while pregnant adds a unique and sometimes challenging layer to the competition.
But just because something is challenging does not mean it cannot be done!
Can You Compete in a Pageant Pregnant?
Journey to the Crown
Whether or not the pregnancy is planned, it does change a contestant’s journey to the crown.
Jena Cook, the current Mrs. Vancouver America 2017, competed at Mrs. Washington America 2017 at eight months pregnant. Like many contestants, she did not find out about her pregnancy until after winning her title.
“We just knew it was going to be a different experience but that it was doable,” Cook said. “Once I found out it was allowed, it didn’t make sense to walk away because we are a different system. We’re the Mrs. There’s no reason not too. It’s a part of being a Mrs.”
While preparing for a pageant is always exciting, it is a different experience when a contestant is pregnant. There are many factors the contestant has to take into account. However, it is important to remember that every pregnancy is different and that will affect different titleholders differently. (Read: 6 Songs to Motivate You Through Pageant Preparation)
In Cook’s case, she had a relatively easy pregnancy. This allowed her to continue being involved in her community and serving her platform. She also had the full support of her husband.
“It’s a team sport, especially when you are a Mrs.,” Cook said.
If a contestant is concerned about the reaction of the other contestants, Cook said during the months of preparation leading up to the pageant, she experienced nothing but positivity and support for her decision. There were even a few jokes. (Read: Pageant Question About Family Support)
“I don’t think I heard a negative word,” Cook said. “It was a running joke. Once we got our contestant numbers it was contestant 21 and 21.5.”
One of the most glaring differences for pregnant contestants is the wardrobe. Swimsuit is the easier of the two. The fabric is stretchy so it can adapt to a growing belly.
If allowed, the option of a two-piece is a great way to show off a contestant’s “bump.” However, the fit of the two-piece is important. Full-coverage bottoms will provide the most support. An underwire top is also a go-to to adapt to a contestant’s changing body.
Many Mrs./Ms. systems require a one-piece for competition. One-pieces are great because they offer the most support and comfort for a pregnant contestant. The coverage of a one-piece also helps keep the attention on the contestant’s face and not the bump.
However, evening gown is where it gets tricky. Gowns for pageants are usually bought far in advance and tailored. However, pregnant contestants are playing a “guessing game” when it comes to the right size. There are many factors to take into account including weight gain and bump size. Neither of which can really be pre-determined.
One of the easier fits for pregnant contestants is an empire style. The gown is fitted at the chest and shoulders and flows out right under the bustline. This gives plenty of the room for a growing bump without many major alterations.
However, that does not mean a pregnant contestant cannot rock a mermaid style either.
“I definitely knew I didn’t want to hide my belly,” Cook said. “I was proud. So, I am going to wear a form-fitting dress.”
Cook said she wanted to go for a Blake Lively red carpet “embrace the bump” vibe for her gown. She began shopping for gown in February. However, there is not a selection of “maternity gowns.” She finally found a black dress on RSVP Prom and Pageant in the plus section.
Unfortunately, Cook did not take into account the overall fit of the gown. While determining what size to order, she only paid attention to the waist measurement of the dress. (Read: Top 10 Mrs Evening Gowns of 2016)
“I ordered a 36,” Cook said. “I mean just huge. Way, way, way bigger than I would ever need because I was just so paranoid. I was like, well it’s better to have too much material than not enough.
Her husband also found humor in the situation.
“My husband was like, well at least you don’t have to worry about it being too small.”
A pregnant contestant’s best friend during pageant wardrobe preparation is her seamstress. As a contestant’s bump grows, her outfits will need to be adjusted accordingly so she looks polished but is comfortable at the same time. Cook found a seamstress through one of her friends to tackle the “project” of her evening gown.
“Lace, boning, corset, beading, I mean, I just tortured this poor lady,” Cook said. “I felt so bad. But she rocked it.”
After her first fitting, the dress was taken down to a size 16. It took an additional three fittings to “Frankenstein” it to fit correctly.
“I was like wow, I really overdid it,” Cook said. (Read: 5 Signs Your Pageant Seamstress is an Expert)
As with any pageant, after months of preparation, a contestant will have her chance to grace the stage. Some contestants may be afraid their pregnancy will prevent them from doing well. However, Cook is proof this is not the case. She placed 1st runner-up to Deidra Murphy. It was Murphy’s third time competing for the title.
“I was like, oh my God,” Cook said. “I didn’t just place in the Top 5. I just got second to this woman who’s been competing in pageants for years, is dialed, I mean this girl is so well-rounded and well-spoken and poised. And here I am #WaddleSquad across the stage. They still saw enough in me that they thought, if she can’t make it or do it, we trust this girl to step up and do it baby or not. It was such a huge compliment.”
Cook said that Murphy and she became close during the competition.
Cook will now compete for the title of National First Runner-up for Mrs. America six weeks after her due date. The pageant is online and consists of all the first runner-up’s from the Mrs. America State Pageants this year. People can buy votes for two dollars. The contestant with the most number of votes will get the chance to compete on the Mrs. America stage this year.
As the rhinestones and glitter settle as Cook prepares to welcome her new addition, she reflected on how it felt being pregnant throughout her reign as Mrs. Vancouver and the competition.
“I knew no matter what with my pregnancy, some people would see it as a hindrance and some people would see it as this amazing thing you have overcome which proves that you are ready,” Cook said. “So there are two camps. And all I can do is do my best to be the best pregnant contestant that is me and they would see it one way or the other.”
There is a pageant for everyone no matter the circumstances! You can find the perfect pageant for you in our Pageant Directory!