Russellville native wins Mrs. America
By Alison James
When Mrs. Alabama America heard her name announced as the new Mrs. America, she was shocked.
“I wasn’t expecting to win, just because of my age,” said Mrs. America Madeline Grace Mitchell Gwin, who, at age 26, is thought to be the youngest winner in Mrs. America history. “I just didn’t think I would be crowned the winner. I almost hit the floor when I won. I was just ecstatic.”
Gwin, a Russellville native, won the Mrs. Alabama America pageant in March. For the Mrs. America pageant, she flew to Las Vegas Sept. 19 for the whirlwind weeklong competition at the Westgate Resort and Casino that included swimsuit, evening gown and multiple rounds of interviews.
Tuesday interviews gave Gwin the chance to share with each judge why she believed she stood out from the other contestants. She chose to highlight her ability to overcome adversity and keep a positive outlook on life.
“My experiences I have dealt with in my life – I was in a nearly fatal car accident in 2008 where I was told I was never going to be able to walk again … I was in a wheelchair for almost three months,” Gwin said. That, along with her reality TV show experience with Bear Grylls, made her “totally unique from the other girls.”
“Most pageant girls would never be able to survive in the wild for 30 days without a shower, no toothbrush, no food,” Gwin said.
Preliminaries on Wednesday landed her in the top 15. “I was very thankful,” Gwin said. “I was very excited, but I had to remain calm … Every woman out there was amazing.”
Gwin wore the same evening dress for the preliminaries as well as the finals – a simple, mermaid-style ivory dress with no beading or ornate frills. Gwin said she knew it was the right dress the moment she put it on.
“I’m a very simple person – I don’t feel like I need a lot of beading or anything like that,” she said. “I knew it fit my body perfectly. I loved it.”
Gwin progressed to the top six and then the top three. For her mother, who was watching the show in Vegas along with her father, one set of grandparents and her husband, the anticipation was almost too much to bear.
“I actually had to get up and go stand at the back of the theater,” said Suzanne Mitchell. “I was so nervous. I couldn’t just sit there.”
Mitchell, like her daughter, had feared Gwin’s age would keep her out of the running.
“I was just nearly in shock,” Mitchell said. “I felt like she was going to do well when she went out there, but I thought her age was going to hurt her … I knew it was something she wanted really badly.”
Gwin credits her family for their support in getting her where she is today. Of course, this isn’t the end of her pageant run. Next up is the Mrs. World competition, which this year will be held in Beijing, China, early next year.
“That’s something I’m looking forward to,” Gwin said. “It should be an exciting year.”
When Gwin’s husband Ryan got a chance to speak with her after the competition, he had one thing to say.
“‘I knew you could do it.’ He was 100 percent confident in me the whole week,” Gwin said.
Gwin competed in her first pageant in sixth grade at Russellville Middle School. “Ever since then, I have just loved it,” she said. In college, she competed in Miss Alabama Teen USA. “Getting to meet the women and compete – it’s always just been something I enjoyed doing.”
Throughout the Mrs. America pageant, Gwin had to answer one important question: Why do you want to be Mrs. America? Her answer is simple: to continue speaking to young girls about never giving up on their dreams and believing in themselves – drawing on her unique experiences.
“I plan to continue telling my story to women across the United States,” Gwin said. She wants to encourage girls to “always live life to the fullest” and said she also plans to work with the Wounded Warrior Project.
Follow Gwin’s new Facebook page, Mrs. America 2015 – Madeline Gwin, to stay updated on news and follow her journey to Mrs. World.