Madison’s Gladden places in Mrs. America
MADISON — Mrs. Mississippi Whitney Warner Gladden recently placed in the Top 15 of the national Mrs. America competition held last month in Las Vegas.
“I was very excited and surprised to make the Top 15 at the Mrs. America pageant,” Gladden said. “It is just something that I will always remember.”
Gladden, who is married to Lee Gladden and has two children, Macy, 10, and Tucker, 12, said her husband encouraged her to enter the pageant world a few years ago.
Gladden, who grew up in Monroe, Louisiana, said she had competed in the former Junior Miss pageant when she was in high school.
“I did win one thing,” Gladden said. “The most ads sold which is typical of me because if I have a tangible goal I can go after, I am going to go do it. I sold the most ads and I got an award for that. At that point I thought, Well, pageantry isn’t my thing and I never pursued it past that one experience.”
Later, Gladden said she moved to Mississippi to attend law school at Mississippi College and she got a job clerking for a law firm.
“Part of my job as a clerk was to proofread motions and memos and things that the attorneys would write,” Gladden said. “I would proofread his things and I thought he was so brilliant. It is almost like I fell in love with his brain before I even really met him.”
Gladden said the two wed shortly before she graduated with her law degree because she wanted her diploma to have his last name.
After they were married, Gladden said she found out Lee had been following pageants most of his life.
“He had a childhood friend who competed and his family would go to her events and cheer her on. They were great friends,” Gladden said. “When we got married, he told me he thought I would be great at the pageantry and I kept saying no. It took him 10 years to convince me to compete in a pageant.”
In 2018, Gladden said she competed in the Mrs. United States pageant and went to the national competition where she finished as the first runner-up.
That was just the beginning after that event, Gladden said her husband encouraged her to enter the Mrs. America pageant.
“He said, ‘You really ought to give Mrs. America a shot,” Gladden said. “It is the oldest Mrs. pageant. It is very prestigious. I’d love to see you try that.’ I said OK.”
Gladden entered and won the local and state pageant and spent the week of March 18-27 participating in the national Mrs. America pageant in Las Vegas.
“I got there and there were some powerhouse women there, just amazing from all 50 states,” Gladden said. “They are all so passionate about their causes. They are multitaskers with their kids and fitness and their volunteer work. They are just really on another level. It is so inspiring to be around them.”
Gladden said her favorite part of competing in pageants is preparing for the event.
“It is almost like the contest itself is like a little bit of a formality, because I love the discipline of getting ready for something,” Gladden said. “I love fine-tuning my presentation skills and interview skills and really just working on myself and trying to be the best version of myself. Then you get there and if you have a mindset it is not about winning it or even placing. It is more about did I bring the best Whitney Gladden to the table? If I did that and I didn’t leave anything out, I feel good about it.”
The Mrs. America contest includes an interview which counts for 50% of the score, swimwear, which counts for 25% and evening gown which also counts for 25%.
Gladden said the pageant also includes a state costume portion and she wore a flowy turquoise dress to represent the Mississippi River.
Other awards were included, too, Gladden said.
“Mrs. Congeniality went to Mrs. Georgia, who I absolutely loved,” Gladden said. “She deserved it every step of the way. Mrs. America was awarded to Brooklynn Rivera, who was Mrs. Texas, who also was very kind and one of my favorite people all week, so it just turned out exactly the way it was supposed to.”
When the time came for the Top 15, Gladden said she thought she was out of the running.\
“When they were calling the top 15 I already had my heels off sitting backstage,” Gladden said. “They called ‘Mrs. Mississippi,’ and I had to put my heels back on and run out there real quick. It was really exciting.”
Gladden said her platform was “Kids for a Cause.”
“It is focused on helping kids find meaningful service opportunities because I really believe if we can teach the kids the importance of volunteerism at an early age that we can change how the world works,” Gladden said. “We can change how people are treating each other when they understand the power of helping people who cannot help themselves.”
Gladden said her family decided to partner with Feeding America to help make a difference.
“I work at a food bank every other week and we do food drives and lots of things with the homeless community and it has just been an amazing thing to be able to do alongside my kids and my husband,” Gladden said.
Next up for Gladden is her plan to host a virtual 5K to benefit Feeding America this summer.
“It is going to be social media-based, and I am going to do my very best to recruit at least one person from every state to run a virtual 5K,” Gladden said. “It will be on a Saturday. They can turn in their times. They can post selfies. They can invite friends. They can do it as a group in their hometown but we want to see as many people as possible, getting together, doing something that is going to benefit their health but is also going to benefit the food crisis that we are facing in America, nationwide.”
Gladden said people can keep up with the virtual 5K on her website at whitneygladden.com.
“They can go there and put in their email address, and I’ll send them an update on when we get things together,” Gladden said.
Gladden said the Mrs. Mississippi America pageant will be held in Ridgeland on July 23-25. She said the exact venue has not yet been nailed down. Gladden encouraged women to sign up for the pageant.
“To the link to register, they can go to my Instagram @WhitneyGladden and click the link in my bio and they will be able to get to the registration,” Gladden said.