Mormon mom, Mrs. Mexico, sticks to her modesty standards in international pageant
Courtesy of Gisel Osuna Merrifield
For Gisel Osuna Merrifield, participating in the Mrs. International pageant wasn't just about gowns and glamour. She did it in hopes of making a difference by not only representing her home country, but also her faith.
This past July, Merrifield, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, competed in the international pageant for married women as Mrs. Mexico against 69 other candidates. Participants ranged from age 21-56 and had to have been married for at least six months.
Merrifield met the requirements, but it was the purpose of the pageant that intrigued her most: the opportunity to promote positive role models and strong commitment to family.
Having never competed in a pageant before, though, Merrifield didn't know what to expect or how to go about competing.
"Just one day I was looking it up for fun, and this one came up," Merrifield said. "It said it was in Chicago in the summer, and we had just moved from Chicago, so I thought it would be fun. They had people from all over, so I thought, 'I'm going to see if they have someone for Mexico.'"
Merrifield was living in Mountain View, Calif., with her husband, John, and her daughter, Mari Skylar, but having been born in Ciudad Cuauhtémoc, Chihuahua, Mexico, she wanted to represent her home country.
"It just said to contact (the pageant director) for more information, so I did, and she emailed me back and said you need to prove you're from Mexico and have a platform," Merrifield said.
As a graduate from BYU–Idaho, Merrifield decided to promote the importance of education for her platform.
"So I applied and chose a platform. Choosing a platform wasn't a problem. I chose the importance of education just because that has always been very important in my family. It has always been important to my parents. They always tried very hard for all my siblings and I to gain an education," Merrifield said.
The application also required the contestants to list any community service they had been involved in, so Merrifield was able to discuss her service as an LDS missionary from 2009-10 on Temple Square in Salt Lake City.
As a possible candidate, Merrifield also participated in interviews with Pageant Director Mary Richardson in which they discussed her application.
"A couple months later, they emailed me back and said you've been selected as Mrs. Mexico International. It was very shocking," Merrifield said. "My husband and I talked about it, and we said we knew I was doing this for fun, but I also want to make an impact in the community."
Yet, after receiving the exciting news, Merrifield didn't immediately respond. She had some concerns.
"One of the things I was worried about was the dress standards. (Richardson) mentioned in the interview (they) pretty much choose all of our outfits — there was a fitness one and then there was a formal wear, but then she said the opening-number dress everyone wears the same one," Merrifield said.
"So I just asked her, I said, 'Well I just have to make sure what the dress looks like ... I just have a dress standard and need to have my shoulders covered and my back, and she said, 'Well, the dress is strapless, so that would be a problem.'"
But rather than giving in, Merrifield asked if she could make alterations.
"I asked her if I could use sleeves or something to cover up, like a cardigan or something to cover my shoulders, and she said, 'Oh, totally. We do not want you to compromise your standards,'" Merrifield said. "She was very understanding and allowed me to add sleeves to the dress. So I said 'OK, that's really my only concern.'"
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