Star-Bulletin Features

Friday, September 10, 1999

Mrs. America Pageant
boasts two from isles

By Stephanie Kendrick
Assistant Features Editor


Hawaii has two Mrs. America contestants to root for Tuesday.

The first, of course, is Mrs. Hawaii Dede Guss.

The mother of three from Portlock is an agent of celebration for her family and friends. She remembers about 500 birthdays each year with homemade cards or gifts. She organizes "surprise" outings for her children, with clues so they can try to figure out where they are headed. She hosts a "Spring Fling" the day before Easter for about 150 guests.

Though she and her husband, Altres owner Barron Guss, are practicing Jews, she said they celebrate all holidays. "We're just into celebrating," said Guss.


Preliminary Competition

When: Sunday, 7-9:30 p.m.
Where: Tropics Showroom

Final Competition

When: Tuesday, 6:15-10 p.m.
Where: Hilton Hawaiian Village Lagoon Lawn
Tickets: $45 for the preliminary, $55 for the final
Call: 949-4321

The second Hawaii woman in the pageant is Mrs. Texas Edrienne Leolani Carpenter. She was born on Kauai to Edward and Eileen Edwards and graduated from Waimea High School in 1991.

She met husband Shane Carpenter at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, and both are now pursuing MBAs at Texas A&M University. While they have no immediate plans to move to Hawaii, said Carpenter, they come back often to visit family.

The Mrs. America pageant will be televised 8 p.m. Sept. 25 on KPXO/PAX and rebroadcast 4 p.m. Sept. 26.

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Mrs. Hawaii

Winning the Mrs. Hawaii title at 39 is a special thrill for Guss. Most contestants and former winners have been in their 20s, she said. And many had not had children.

"When I won swim suit, that was like the sweetest because I knew there were 16 contestants younger than I," said Guss.

Guss did not run for Mrs. Hawaii out of any inflated sense of her own physical beauty. In fact, after running in two previous Mrs. Hawaii pageants, she had doubts about entering again.

"You put yourself in this position for people to say 'She's not that pretty,' " said Guss.

When she came back from the orientation session conflicted about whether she should run again, she asked her 9-year-old son Zack what she should do. "He said, 'Mommy, if you just be yourself, you will win.' Once he said that, I was like, OK, I'm doing it," said Guss.

Her post pageant plans include reading to school children and dancing hula at senior centers.

Already, much of her time is spent volunteering at her children's school, Holy Nativity. She is room mother, team mother, field trip chaperone and helps with the book fair, among other things. "I'm like mother of everything," said Guss.

She also started a mother-daughter book club that meets once a month. "I really want to be there while they are still excited for me to be there," she said, adding she knows it won't be too long before they don't want mom around all the time.

With full-time help to take care of her family, Guss is not worried that they won't be able to live without her if she should take the Mrs. America title. But, she said, she'd be happy just finishing her term as Mrs. Hawaii.

"If something happens great, I'm obviously preparing to do my very best," said Guss. "If it doesn't happen, hey I'm Mrs. Hawaii and I think that's the coolest title."

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Mrs. Texas

Carpenter, a 26-year-old educator, is grateful for the opportunity afforded to her by the Mrs. Texas title. "It's amazing how people listen to you when you have the crown and banner on," she said.

The title has allowed her to share the importance of her religion with groups, like Mary Kay cosmetics. "I am who I am because I've had some guidelines, some religious guidelines, and because of my faith in God," she said.

As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Carpenter is cautious about her perception as a beauty queen. She said though the swimsuits in the pageant are not very revealing, the church wouldn't encourage its members to parade in them. But she is using the title to do good.

Carpenter regularly does volunteer work in schools and her job at Paris Junior College involves tutoring in scholastic subjects, as well as teaching life skills.

As Mrs. Texas, she is committed to setting a good example.

"The day that I won Mrs. Texas, immediately sparked off just a genuine need to balance my life even more because every one is watching, the children are watching and you don't want to let them down," she said.

She thinks the pageant sets a good example for women.

"The Mrs. America pageant to me really encompasses a well-rounded woman who has probably already attained many of her personal goals and her family goals," she said. "The married woman still can have it all and still can be beautiful and still can be physically fit and she doesn't have to let herself go after marriage."

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