Carencro native wins Mrs. Louisiana; next stop Mrs. America

Mrs. Louisiana America Juanita Prejean discusses the Mrs. America pageant at her business, Big Poppa's Gym, in Carencro. (Photo: Leslie Westbrook, The Advertiser)

Carencro mom and business owner Juanita Prejean said her love of fashion is what drew her to the Mrs. Louisiana America competition. The 31-year old is married to Joseph Prejean and the couple own and operate Big Poppa’s Fitness Gym in Carencro.

“I spend all day in gym clothes here,” Prejean said. “So I thought it would be a good hobby. What little girl doesn’t like to play dress up and wear a pretty dress?”

Prejean said before 2008, she had never competed in a pageant before. In fact, she didn’t even know there was such a thing as a pageant for married women. What she found out was that she loved the challenge of entering her first Mrs. Louisiana America contest.

“I placed second runner-up,” Prejean said. “I won most photogenic and the swimsuit round, so I was very excited. I had only decided to join it a month before the actual competition. So I got with one of my (gym) members and she clued me in on everything that I needed to know.”

Prejean ended up winning the title of Mrs. Louisiana at the state competition in Baton Rouge March 21. She will now go on to compete for the Mrs. America title in September. Organizers are planning the event in Russia, but Prejean said that is not confirmed at this point.

“They wanted to hold it there because it was the place where the very first one was held,” she said. “They got an invitation and they said, ‘Let’s hold it there.’ But then there is the issue of getting 51 ladies to Russia safely.”

One thing most people don’t know is that the Mrs. America pageant is not affiliated with either the Miss America Pageant or Donald Trump’s Miss USA organization. It is its own event in which 51 contestants, ranging in age from their 20s to their 50s, participate by winning a state competition.

For Prejean, competing has become a family affair. Her 4-year-old son, Kingston, is his mom’s biggest fan, often sitting in the audience with father Joseph cheering her on. Joseph Prejean said he even chooses all of Prejean’s evening gowns for the pageant.

“I pick out all of her dresses,” he said. “Who knows the beauty of women like (their) husband? I just look for something I like. We always stick to color. I like blue on her. You want a man’s opinion because normally they have a man judge. I’m blunt. Because you know the judges are going to be that way.”

That the young fitness instructor and personal trainer won is no surprise to her clients and friends. Stephanie and Paul Heath are both members of Big Poppa’s Fitness Gym. Prejean is a personal trainer for Stephanie Heath, so they two have gotten to know each other well over the years.

“I told her she had that (contest),” Heath said. “That’s exactly what I told her. She is awesome inside and out. She is beautiful.”

Paul Heath said a lot of the determination Prejean shows in her workouts with clients also played a part in how she was able to take on the pageant world.

“She is dedicated to what she loves,” Paul Heath said. “That’s why she won.”

For the Prejean family, the upcoming contest for the national title will be the ultimate challenge but one they won’t shy away from. Prejean said she might have a few nerves, but she will take it in stride — win or lose.

“I think I am a little nervous,” she said. “This will be the first time I’ll be with 50 other women on stage. It’s different on a state level.”

Prejean’s husband said he isn’t worried at all, because no matter what, he is married to the prettiest woman in the world.

“How many guys get to sit down and say he is married to Mrs. Louisiana?” Joseph Prejean said. “You know, it’s a blessing. It’s always a challenge, but I don’t worry about she is going to do. I’m just wondering what they will do with her. She is a tiger and a fighter. And, she is always prepared.”

Juanita Prejean’s Top 5 goals for winning the Mrs. Louisiana title

1. Be myself.

2. I have to learn not to be afraid to talk about myself. I don’t like talking about myself too much.

3. Get in great shape. There are women who will be working out from the day they get the crown until the day they leave for the national competition.

4. Enjoy it. I’ve seen people go to a competition and be so uptight, they can’t enjoy the moment. These are memories you will walk away with, win or lose.

5. Give them a great smile. It will carry you a very long way.

Prejean’s diet and exercise routine for staying in shape

I try to do a low-carb diet — chicken, fish and high protein. I love sweet potatoes. I also eat a lot of brown rice and good fats like walnuts, almonds, things that will keep the fuel going and give energy.

I have cheat meals. My cheat is cheese pizza. Win or lose, I’ll have that after the show.

I’m a chocoholic. I love anything chocolate. I don’t like pre-made brownies, but anything homemade, baked, I will eat it.

No alcohol. I’ve never been a fan of it.

Best advice for those interested in pageants

I always tell women, it’s not what you think. You have to get your feet wet. See for yourself. You may like it, you may not. I compete with a lot of women who tell me this is a “bucket list” item for them.

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