Meghan Gray says she “blacked out” as she was announced the winner of the Mrs. Maine for America pageant Sunday.

“I remember I was standing there and I had my fingers crossed behind my back,” the Manchester woman said in an interview. “I honestly, once they called (the first runner up’s) name, I blacked out … in complete honesty.”

Mrs. America is a pageant specifically for women who are married. The competition is broken up into three phases, an interview with the judges and swimsuit and evening gown portions. The interview counts for 50% of the total score, with the evening gown and swimsuit making up the final half.

Gray, 34, has been married to her husband Ben for seven years, and they have two children, Madison, 3, and Landon, 1. She said her family moved to Manchester about a year ago after living in Hallowell.

Meghan Gray, of Manchester, is seen moments after being crowned Mrs. Maine 2020. Photo courtesy of Susan Costa Photography

Gray, a University of Maine graduate, formerly worked as an anchor and news reporter for WABI in Bangor but left in 2012 to work for Colby College. She is now the associate director of alumni experience and networks for the Waterville college.

With her newfound title, Gray said she was hoping to make use of appearances and volunteer opportunities to spread her platform, which deals with substance abuse recovery and the Maine drug court system.

The state’s drug court, according to its website, is a community-based, court-supervised treatment for people involved in the criminal justice or child protection system.

The issue hits home for Gray particularly, as her brother Ryan Hayward, struggled with substance abuse disorder and navigated the state’s drug court system.

“For me, I feel that we oftentimes stereotype people in these situations,” she said, adding that many think those with substance abuse disorder come from bad homes or make bad decisions. “In this situation, my brother and I were raised in the exact same household with the same rules and same values.”

Debra Pronovost, the state pageant’s executive director, said the pageant is run by David Siegal, who runs Westgate Resorts. She said the pageant’s overarching platform deals with similar themes to Grays; as Siegal’s 18-year-old daughter Victoria died of an opioid overdose in 2015.

“Let’s be frank; there’s an epidemic, and we can turn our eyes as a society or we can tackle it,” Pronovost said.

Gray said the Mrs. Maine for America pageant is different from pageants for younger contestants because the contestants are usually a bit more confident.

“They’re not as frequent as ones for younger kids and teens,” she said of the pageants for married women. “It’s more about women empowering women.”

Gray said she will continue to promote the Mrs. Maine organization in hopes that more women will join.

Maine’s regional pageant was also delayed due to the virus. Pronovost said the pageant was originally scheduled for April, but moved to June and finally September due to restrictions from executive orders from Gov. Janet Mills.

Women who sang or spoke during the show were tested for the virus, and other contestants were tested on a volunteer basis.

Women who did not want to compete due to the pandemic were allowed to roll over their enrollment fee to next year’s pageant. Pronovost said a total of seven women competed in Mrs. Maine.

Pronovost said 45 people helped run the pageant, which was streamed on Facebook Live. Contestants were checked for symptoms of coronavirus each day and had to maintain a safe social distance and wear a mask until they got on stage.

Gray said she started doing pageants at the age of 5, carrying on through middle and high school.

Pronovost said Gray was “what any director would want” in a member of the organization.

“She’s an amazing communicator,” Pronovost said. “She’s a great asset to our organization.”

Next for Gray is competing for the national Mrs. America title with representatives from other states in Las Vegas. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, there is no confirmed date for that pageant.

Also on Sunday, Nicole Chamberland, of Mechanic Falls, placed first in the Miss Maine for America pageant which is offered for single, divorced or widowed women.

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