Helping Indiana Women Celebrate Their Inner and Outer Beauty
The pageant circuit isn't just a young woman’s game, as Julie Dilorenzo can attest. As the director of the Mrs. Indiana America pageant, Julie works with contestants who are married women spanning from their twenties to fifties.
“You’re never too old to compete. I get girls from 25-55, and let me tell you, I have seen some amazing women in their 40s and 50s standing next to a 20 or 30 year old looking just as good!”
Julie is no stranger to the pageant stage. A native and current resident of Elkhart, she has been crowned Mrs. Indiana International and Mrs. Indiana-America, and was 42 years old when she won her last title. She has more than 25 years of experience in the pageant industry, and as she says, “You name the area in pageantry and I’ve done it!”
For the last 16 years, Julie has ran the Elkhart Distinguished Young Women scholarship program (formerly known as Junior Miss), in which young women in high school can compete to win money for college. The participants are not evaluated on their appearance, but rather scholastic achievements, interview, talent, fitness, and self-expression.
“There are so many things that pageantry gives to women, in the way of confidence, great friendships, scholarship money, and the opportunity to share their personal successes.”
From working with high schoolers to married women, Julie has personally witnessed the ways pageants positively benefit the participants that go far beyond the outer appearance.
“You cannot participate in any pageant, in which you are putting yourself in front of the public and judges, and not grow in certainty and self-esteem,” explains Julie.
The Mrs. Indiana-America pageant, which is for married women, in particular is filled with contestants from all walks of life, who defy the stereotypical beauty pageant conventions and use the program to empower themselves.
“Lawyers, teachers, those in the fitness industry, firefighters, college professors, stay at home moms - women from all different backgrounds use this pageant to improve personally, physically and emotionally.” says Julie.
The pageant circuit isn’t as cutthroat as some would believe - in Julie’s experience, the contestants are supportive of each other and there to make connections and achieve their own personal goals, not to tear down the competition.
“The contestants want to get to know each other as women and empower one another,” states Julie. “We really want to create a sisterhood, when it’s all said and done.”
She says one of the most common reasons women participate in the Mrs. Indiana-America pageant is to bring attention to a cause for which they’re passionate about.
“A title and a crown give your platform a voice. It opens a door for you and makes people and the media more likely to listen to what you have to say,” she explains. Julie has utilized her role, as director, in the pageant industry to bring attention to a national cause for which she is passionate: Victoria’s Voice Foundation. Providing support and education, the organization advocates to fight the national drug epidemic by equipping first responders with Narcan, which can reverse opioid overdoses, with the goal of hopefully making people less afraid to call 911 for help in overdose situations.
While Julie believes there are many benefits of pageants, she also acknowledges there are misconceptions associated with them.
“A common misconception about pageants is that you have to have the perfect body or spend a lot of money, which is not necessarily true.” She recommends contestants ask for support in their endeavor, through requesting sponsorships for expenses or bartering services. And the fear of creating or exacerbating body image issues should not hold women back from competing in a pageant.
“I have never experienced in either the teen or Mrs. pageant, any unhealthy dieting or exercising habits. We’re educated so much better now on being healthy and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. There is no one secret exercise or diet plan that will make you ‘pageant perfect’ because there is no such thing. It’s not just about being beautiful, it’s about being well-rounded and creating a complete package that represents you,” explains Julie.
In addition to her director roles in the local pageant organizations, Julie is also the owner of Blushing Bride on 17, a bridal boutique in Elkhart. She relishes in the joy of helping brides-to-be find the perfect dress because she sees just how much the perfect dress brings joy and confidence to the bride.
“When you wake up in the morning and love your outfit and are having a good hair day, it just makes you feel good. It gives you an extra pep in your step. As women get older with families and careers, we put everybody before us. And at the end of the day, week, or month, you’ve left yourself last.” Her involvement in the Mrs. Indiana pageant allows Julie the chance to help women invest time and energy into themselves, and reap the personal benefits.
Like most working women, Julie is constantly juggling to find that perfect work-life balance. “It’s all about prioritizing what’s right for you at this point in your life.”
She is married to her husband Mike, and has two adult daughters Leslee and Laura. She enjoys playing tennis, working in her yard, hosting get-togethers with friends at her home, and traveling to new places. And although she has a jam-packed schedule, especially as Blushing Bride on 17 continues to grow, slowing down is not a current goal.
“I like to be busy. I’m 60, but I don’t see myself retiring anytime soon,” says Julie. She opened Blushing Bride on 17 four years ago, and wants to give it at least another five years. But she remains open-minded and ready to go with whatever God has in store for her in the future.
For more information about Distinguished Young Women of Elkhart scholarship program, visithttp://elkhart.in.distinguishedyw.org/ and for more information about the Mrs. Indiana-America pageant, visit http://www.mrsindianaamerica.com/. Blushing Bride is located at 901 Parkway Avenue in Elkhart, 574-294-2217 and carries bridal gowns and accessories, bridal party wear, tuxedos, mother of the bride attire, and specializes in carrying designs unique to the area.