Wednesday, November 04, 2009

A Courageous Beauty Interview: Mrs. Louisiana International 2009-Laura Ludwig

Angie: I'd like to introduce you to my friend Laura Ludwig. She's a military wife with a heart of gold. She's all about supporting the families of our soldiers. This is an important issue that hasn't had a lot of air time. Our military families live a unique lifestyle determined by many things outside their control. I'm so glad to be able to share Laura's important work and interview with you!

Angie: How did you learn about pageants?

Laura: I've been watching Miss and Teen pageants for as long as I can remember. Then I hit Google one day looking for info on pageants in Louisiana and came across Mrs pageants as well.

Angie: What is your platform?

Laura: I title my platform "Deployments Affect Everyone," and through it, I seek to support and bring light on programs like Operation Military Kids and Helping Homefront Heroes. As a military wife of 12 years and a mother of five, my focus has been to help support other military families. In the past 18 months, my husband has been on two deployments. He and I both are able to see first hand how these times away affect everyone in the family not just the person who is going away.

Angie: How do you build your platform and promote your work?

Laura: I am always on the look out for programs and events that support military children. I contact them and offer my services and title to help in whatever way possible.

Angie: I think this is the biggest misconception the general public has about beauty queens. There really is no team meeting every need and booking appearances. State level beauty queens (and local level) show their true character by searching out ways to be available and get involved on their own. Why did you decide to compete?

Laura: I see pageants and titles as a way to open doors and be able to reach a larger audience. I don't see what I do for military families as a platform. The pageants are the platform for me.

Angie: Was this your first pageant?

Laura: This was my first pageant as an adult and one that wasn't just for fun with my friends.

Angie: Was/is competition scary?

Laurie: I won't lie, as soon as reality set in that I was selected as Mrs. Louisiana International 2009 a bit of panic set in. I didn't have a local director or former queen to help guide me, so didn't know where to even start. But it didn't take long for me to relax and remember what my reason for doing this was in the first place. This was never about going for a bigger crown; it was about me being myself and supporting military families. That made me more excited than scared.

Angie: What personal fear did you have to overcome?

Laura: The one thing I was freaking out over was getting on stage in a tight spandex outfit for fitness. Not everyone is able to have a baby and snap right back into shape. Well, after having five kids in 10 years, let’s just say I was no longer in the shape I was in as a member of my high school dance team again. Knowing that I didn't want to let my state down though, I got back in a dance studio, cut back on portion sizes and dropped the extra pounds.

Angie: What about your first competition, were you super confident?

Laura: Was I confident that I would win? Gosh no. If there was an underdog heading to nationals I thought for sure I was it. What I was confident about was that I did the best I could to be prepared to represent my state and my platform.

Angie: What did you have to learn to compete?

Laura: Anyone that knows me knows I have to slow down when talking. In every day conversations, I've been told I'm a fast talker. Knowing we only had five minutes with each judge then 30 seconds if we made it to top 10 had me worried. I would have to slow down yet still get in all the things I wanted to talk about.

Angie: Tell us about what you have been able to do as Mrs. Louisiana International 2009:

Laura: In keeping with my platform, I have been able to make numerous contacts, schedule appearances and attend events that support our military and their families. The most rewarding of those opportunities for me was being able to promote the book, ‘Hurry Home.’ Leah McDermott wrote the book for her children, and others like ours, who have to deal with military deployments. Leah’s goal is to get the books to children free of any cost to the family, and I have been able to schedule events where I can raise money and let people know of the great work she is doing for us. It is a great honor to work with her and share this book with as many people as we can. She is a real hero.

Angie: How interesting that you became a spokesperson for Leah in order to help other people. I find that interesting because some people need the help getting the word out and others like to be the people who get the word out. We have a symbiotic way of being, don't we? :-) Please tell us about a goal, why it's been a goal, and what it means to you?

Laura: My goal with all of this is to show my children and others like them that they are not alone. Many people have been where they are and have come out better because of it. It means showing them we have people who care and support them while they are living with dad gone for the next year.

Angie: What do you still want to achieve?

Laura: We still need to raise money for the ‘Hurry Home’ books… As long as service members deploy, I feel there is a need for children to see that book. I'd love to get that call saying, "I want to help with this project. Where do I send a check?" hehehe.

Angie: There's an idea in society that pageants are just skin deep. How would you answer that?

Laura: I'd say it depends on the particular pageant being discussed. Once upon a time, I thought the same thing, and when one sees the pageant on stage I can still see where they think that. It's not until you see how hard contestants work to get there and what they do after the pageant that you learn to appreciate it all.

Angie: The media has given Americans the idea that pageant girls/women are not intelligent and accomplished. What kind of an education do you have?

Laura: Anyone who really believes that needs to strike up a conversation with a titleholder the next chance they get. I'm sure they would be surprised at what they are able to manage at any given time. I attended Louisiana State University for a year. While there, I was part of Phi Beta Lambda and Circle K. During that year, I was dating my now husband, who was attending another university while writing for a local newspaper. He decided to join the Navy, and we didn't want to be apart. So both left school. I decided having a family and being there for my children while they were young could only happen once. For me, school would still be there when they were older. Thanks to the new G.I. Bill, my school will be paid for when the time is right for us.

Angie: What is your "day job?"

Laura: When not wearing my crown, I have a couple other hats. I homeschool our four older children and volunteer with the kids’ scout troops as product sales leader.

Angie: Do you have other creative talents you pursue?

Laura: When I have the time, I love to dance. I have been in a studio as often as possible for as long as I can remember.

Angie: Do you think it is important for a person to look their best?

Laura: I do think this is important but not because looking like a model is a requirement for walking out of your front door. I think if you feel good about yourself you'll have a little more ‘pep in your step’ throughout the day.

Angie: What do you hope to achieve with your title long term?

Laura: As a couple, my husband and I agree this experience has opened up our eyes. We have seen the great feats pageants allow ladies of all ages to accomplish. I'd like to use what I've learned this year and perhaps with future titles to direct a pageant one day. I look forward to helping other women enjoy this experience and promote causes special to them.

Angie: Would you share about your fashion favorites, flair, or a tip that makes you feel beautiful?

Laura: The best fashion tip I could give would be to remind people that you don't have to follow all the trends or spend a ton of money on designer clothes to look beautiful. Find clothes that are right for your body type; clothes that you feel good in. Along with that, wear a little blush and lipstick when you walk out the door each day. Feeling beautiful is all about how you see yourself. I can feel just as beautiful in a pair of jeans with a cute top and pair of heels as I do in an evening gown. Again, it's all about attitude.

Angie: What are your plans after your title ends?

Laura: Well, Charles is completing his overseas tour in October 2010, so he and I are already discussing our next duty location. My spring will be consumed with looking for homes and researching schools at that duty station. I may even compete again in our new state.

Angie: What compliment do you receive most often?

Laura: The one compliment I am most proud of and get most often is on our children’s behavior and manners. Like all kids, they have their moments, but over all they are great. I can take any or all of them just about anywhere, and I know I won't have to fuss and fight over the way they act.

Angie: What are you most confident about?

Laura: I'm most confident in being able to handle whatever life may send my way.

Angie: How did you earn that sense of confidence?

Laura: I have a great support system made up of family and friends that are there for me when I need them.

Angie: What would you like to share?

Laura: I would just like to let everyone know what an honor it was to be Mrs. Louisiana International this year. Pageants can open up many doors – not only for the contestant, but for causes that are special to them.

Angie: Thank you so much for being with us, Laura. You are an excellent example of seeing a need and making sure it is not only filled, but done with passion and purpose.
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