Debra: I first saw an ad in a magazine with Mrs. America's picture in it. That piqued my interest as I had not been aware of pageants for women aside from Miss America and Miss USA.
Angie: What titles have you held?
Debra: As a cornea recipient in 1988 I was asked to be a statewide spokesperson by the Oregon Donor Program. After winning the Mrs. Oregon pageant, I used my title to give additional visibility to my existing commitments to speak out about organ and tissue donation.
Through the years other philanthropic needs emerged. As a lobbyist I saw the daily struggle so many organizations go through to support and advance truly important causes. As a family member I saw people very close to me suffer with addiction, and cardiovascular disease. Dear friends of mine experienced the loss of their ten year old son from cancer.
These things change you as a person. You have two choices; let it consume you, or use that same energy to serve as an advocate for change. I chose the latter.
Debra: Back in 1988 it looked like a lot of fun, and having grown up in the shadow of the Miss America pageant (I'm a native of New Jersey) it was the fulfillment of a dream. My interest was reignited in 2007, motivated in large part by the perceptions of attractiveness I personally experienced as a woman who was turning 50.
Angie: At 45, I agree!
Angie: LOL, I so understand!
Debra: In the early years as a titleholder I was able to substantially increase the number donor designations on Oregon drivers licenses for those wishing to become organ donors. I was also able to lend a face and name to pageantry for married women in my community. Very few were aware there even was a Mrs. Oregon until a cover story in Portland's This Week Magazine featuring me as Mrs. Oregon 1988, shed light about the program.
More currently, the ability to pass key legislation on both a Statehouse and Congressional level in the health care arena addressing addiction and cardiovascular disease, and raise substantial funds in the private sector to fund educational, research, and support services opportunities for my charities.
Angie: Please tell us about a dream, why it's been a goal, and what it means to you?
Debra: I would love to accelerate the paradigm shift for women to reach a place in which they appreciate themselves (and each other) to the degree that they no longer feel the need to cut up their bodies with elective, invasive surgical procedures and exterior changes to fit an unrealistic standard of attractiveness.
Angie: Ah, that's definitely important!
Debra: In my world view, I believe that anything is possible!
When This Week Magazine first covered the news that I was Mrs. Oregon 1988, the reporter made fun of the title and dismissed me as a blowdryer devotee with no substance. I called the reporter and challenged him (in a polite way, of course!) to sit down with me and get to know me, my treat.
He was stunned I would do such a thing and accepted my challenge. We met for tea and he soon forgot his preconceived idea of a pageant queen. A few weeks later I was the cover feature of the magazine which detailed my title, as well as my career position (at the time) as a placement director for a dental college.
In my opinion, if pageant queens would advance their resumes along with press releases and challenge in a polite, but firm, way dismissive coverage and remarks, we could certainly make a dent in the media's perception.
Debra: My goal is to demonstrate through words and deeds women of all ages have an attractiveness that is uniquely their own. My current title reflects the mission statement of the Beauties of America program which is, "beauty and accomplishment at every age." I hope to advance that mission by supporting women in recognizing attractiveness at every stage of life.
It is my hope that by the time my daughters are my age, the media's standard of a twenty year old's body with a fifty year old's wisdom and experience is all but a memory.
Debra: Regardless of what comes my way, if I am true to myself and my beliefs, I will succeed.
Debra: Experience. The wisdom I have at fifty-two permits me to be much more pragmatic and confident about most everything. In my thirties (when I first won a title) I thought I was confident. Reflecting back I can see I was predicating much of that confidence on my physical appearance. If I looked good on the outside, that it equated to confidence. Age teaches you confidence is all mental and has nothing at all to do with the physical.
Angie: I bolded Debra's statement because I hope it is something that really stands out! What would you like to share?
Debra: As a member of the largest demographic in the country, mid-lifers (forty-five and up) are in the unique position to change the direction of what the accepted norm for attractiveness truly is. There is a power that comes with numbers!
I hope many women, particularly those approaching my age embrace the opportunity and refuse to accept arbitrary standards for attractiveness. We can redefine true beauty for what it really is. This means staying active and not using age as a reason for not shedding those extra pounds, cutting your hair only if you want to not because you reach a certain age, or foregoing putting on makeup because you think it doesn't matter.
In our forties we have a tendency to want to fight nature. At fifty, you reach an acceptance that is so empowering. Let your true beauty show!
Angie: Oh, I'm middle-aged! [Read shocked here.] Lol, I never thought of myself as middle-aged at 45. Well then, Debra, I join your numbers and I refuse to cut my hair. I just don't look good in short styles so why should I? :-) Please share your websites, blogs, and any other places readers can connect or learn more about you and your work:
www.DebraGilmour.com (in development stages but should be up soon)
Angie: I am just so pleased to have had the opportunity to visit with Debra and hope you have enjoyed it too.