Pageant in a pandemic: Wiscasset’s Heather Demeny Mrs. Maine American 2020

Pageant postponed, then carried out with precautions
Sun, 09/20/2020 - 8:45am

    Heather Demeny has always wanted to see Las Vegas. She hopes to go this year and, if she does, the trip will be all expenses paid. And she could come home to Wiscasset with a crown, like she did Sept. 6 as the new Mrs. Maine American.

    “I’m pretty excited. It’s surreal,” the nursing student at Maine College of Health Professionals in Lewiston and medical assistant at Martin’s Point Health in Brunswick said of her first state title, won in her fifth pageant across three organizations. In a phone interview Sept. 12, she talked about the win and what the title involves, whether or not Las Vegas is in the cards.

    Demeny, 42, captured the title by taking first runner-up in Mrs. Maine America. The nationals in Las Vegas are for a possible spot in Mrs. World, according to “(The Las Vegas event) is still tentative, because of COVID-19, so they’re hoping sometime in November or December,” Demeny said.

    The Maine pageant was planned for April, then postponed to June, and finally September. The weekend of Sept. 5-6 at Double Tree by Hilton in South Portland, the contestants could have one guest, “we had tape marked out everywhere, we had to be six feet (apart) and masked” at practice, Demeny said. “The one time we did not have masks on was the actual show, and when we were onstage, we were all six feet apart.” The annual contestants’ dinner was socially distanced, she added.

    “(Mrs. Maine America and Miss Maine for America Pageants State Director Debra Pronovost) took it all very, very seriously.” 

    Pronovost said she and most involved were tested for COVID-19, the pageant was closed except for the one guest each, plus she partnered weekly with Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention. “I was very, very strict ... because what is most important to me is we practice what we preach, and our communities are very important to us. That’s what this (pageant) system is all about.”

    Interview was half the score. Demeny won that part. “My jaw just hit the floor when they announced my name. And I think I said, ‘What?’ I knew at that point my life was about to change.” The secret to her interview showing: She was completely herself, she said. When one judge asked what Demeny would do if she had a Friday night with no responsibilities, “I told her that Friday nights I’m usually pretty tired so I would probably binge-watch “90-Day Fiance” on Netflix and eat a half a box of Cheez-Its if I didn’t have to cook for anybody.”

    She also talked to the judges about her family, her values and her platform, juvenile diabetes awareness. The national platform is overdose awareness, she noted.

    Dress fittings and photos ahead of the national pageant are at no cost to Demeny. Some events she would have appeared at have been canceled due to the pandemic. She plans to be at Pink Your Ride car parade Oct. 18 on Portland’s Back Cove, for Making Strides Against Breast Cancer.

    Daughter Olivia, 18, a first-year, pre-veterinary science student at University of Maine in Orono, watched the pageant via a virtual ticket. “She was texting me the whole time when I was backstage,” her mother said. “She was so thrilled for me. She’s my biggest supporter, and was losing her mind up there.”

    Her other children, Braden, 15, Noah, 20, and Tyler, 21, also support her pageant runs and are so proud of her, she said. She and Braden recently went to Boothbay for a candlelight ceremony remembering Mainers lost to overdoses. Braden learned how to give Narcan to try to save a life. “It’s just important to keep them aware of things like that ... It’s one of the big reasons I do pageants is to show the kids how to volunteer and give back, and life isn’t just about you.”

    Husband Ryan might have been more excited than she was about her win, she said. He has supported her pageant efforts and all her school and work undertakings, she said. He told Wiscasset Newspaper he was “super proud” of her for the win and for all she has accomplished in the pageants, including increased self-confidence. “She’s amazing.” 

    Demeny was mum on one aspect of her run at the national title: The theme of her state costume Cindy Peters is designing. Past themes have included a potato sack, lobster and rooster, Demeny said. “I’ve come up with something that I think is going to be a real show-stopper.”

    Getting crowned was satisfying. And when she was back at work that week, in scrubs, and cleaning someone’s ears, it crossed her mind, taking care of her patients satisfied her as much as the win did.

    Pronovost said Meghan Gray won Mrs. Maine America; Nicole Chamberland, Miss Maine for America.