Mormon mom, Mrs. Mexico, sticks to her modesty standards in international pageant
Merrifield emphasized the importance of modesty, not only for herself to feel comfortable, but as a way to demonstrate what she believed to the other contestants, the audience and even her own daughter.
"That's always been on the top of my mind, especially now that I have a child," said Merrifield, who is pregnant with her second daughter. "I don't want my kids to go back and look at my pictures and see that I had a chance to be an example and I chose not to represent."
As the pageant drew closer, Merrifield strived to make the dress as modest as she could even though it was a difficult outfit to alter. She also got in contact with Mrs. Utah, Suzanne Plant, and Mrs. Idaho, Randi Ritchie, who were also members of the LDS Church. When she informed them of her dress alterations, they were surprised she had received permission.
"I guess we weren't allowed to do anything to the dress, so when I talked to Mrs. Idaho she said, 'Wow, I can't believe she gave you permission.' So she said, 'Well, if you're going to add sleeves, I'm going to add sleeves, too!'" Merrifield said.
Once Plant heard of the alterations, she also made the adjustments to her opening-number dress.
"I was glad I asked, and Mrs. Idaho was happy to know that we could do that, or at least that we had permission to do that," Merrifield said.
After altering three dresses, Merrifield, Plant and Ritchie quite obviously stood out from the other contestants.
"Everyone else was strapless, and us three, we were wearing sleeves," Merrifield said. "They started coming up to me and saying, 'Oh, wow, so pretty. Why do you have sleeves?' They didn't ask who gave us permission. They just asked why did we add sleeves. So I had a chance to tell them that I'm LDS, I have a dress standard and that I don't wear strapless dresses, that my shoulders have to be covered, and that that's a part of our religion.
"Some of them said, 'That's beautiful.' It was really cool for me to hear that from them, that they just made me think, wow, they're not judging me for the way I'm dressing. They just thought it was really cool that I kept my standard throughout the competition."
Coming into the pageant, Merrifield didn't know what to expect. While Mrs. Illinois, Amy Gregario, was awarded the title, Merrifield was happy she was able to give her best effort and make friends. She left feeling proud of what she accomplished and grateful for opportunity to be involved in something that promotes positive influences in the world.
"I felt good about everything. I really did my best," Merrifield said. "It was also kind of a testimony of how we're all God's children. We all have trials in our life. All of these women were so great and doing great things to try and make a difference in the world. We're all here trying to do our best and to help others along the way, no matter what faith we're from."
And although Merrifield's daughter is still quite young, only 18 months, she hopes that one day her daughter will be able to learn from some of the decisions her mother made.
"I hope that she learns that no matter where we are and what we're doing, there's always an opportunity to be a good example of who we are and what we stand for," Merrifield said. "Someone will always benefit from that example. I hope when she looks at my pictures, that she understands that Mom kept her dress standards throughout the pageant."
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