Wednesday, July 3, 2013 | 1:38 p.m.
Forget for the moment the glamour girls of Miss USA and Miss America. When the new reality TV series “Crown Chasers” airs on TLC next Wednesday, it will rip open the veiled curtain of the cutthroat world of Mrs. Pageants through the eyes of five women, one of whom is Las Vegas resident Deborah Ashton-Cooke, our 2012 Mrs. Nevada International. She also has a home in the Denver area where the other beauty queens on the show live.
TLC’s promo material says: “The women balance families, marriages and careers while always prepared to compete in the next big pageant. On the stage, the ladies aim to carry themselves with grace, poise and beauty, but what goes on offstage is an entirely different story. In the fierce politics of ‘frenemies,’ where today’s competition is tomorrow’s judge, the women are always on alert. Since their pageant world is incredibly tight knit, the women must be on their best behavior at all times — or at least they should be. With everything going on in each of their lives, whether they’re crash-training to fit into swimsuits or psyching out the competition, it’s clear — absolutely anything goes in the pursuit of the almighty crown.”
TLC is the network that introduced the controversial world of kiddie pageants with “Toddlers & Tiaras” in 2008. Now, the same network is giving viewers an inside look at the lives of more mature pageant queens. On camera in “Crown Chasers,” 52-year-old Deborah says:
“In 1998, I won the Mrs. California America title, and a couple of years later I got divorced and thought I was done with pageantry. I got married again in 2009, and my now husband and I went to a reunion for the Mrs. Californias and when I came offstage, he said that he had never seen me look so alive. And it was obvious I had a burn to do this; he pushed me to get back in to pageantry. So here I am back in, and I will be competing for the title of Mrs. International in Chicago in a few weeks.”
“We are competition for each other night and day,” one of the women says in the show’s teaser video, as she points out whom she has beaten for the coveted crown. Another breaks down as she tells the camera of all the cardio workouts and “not eating” she endures to get in shape for the pageants. One other woman explains that she needs to take home the top spot to show others that she is “better than they are.”
Deborah says that’s not her drive. When she first entered the pageant world at 20, vying for Miss America and Miss USA, she did so because she wanted to earn money to pay for college. These days, her sole focus is philanthropy, giving back and helping raise millions of dollars during the past years. “The most rewarding thing with the Mrs. International system is that we are judged on how best we serve our platform. My platform is St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and I sit on the board locally in Las Vegas, as well as for the American Heart Association.
“I’m 52 years old, and I don’t mind telling people that. When I was younger, if I had a swimsuit shoot or a pageant, I would diet for a week. Maybe lift a weight here or there and be good and ready. Now it’s a full six months of every day, no days off, and I am down to mostly just protein and greens and a little bit of carbs just to keep my kidneys healthy. It’s tough, really tough. It all boils down to what you feel makes your exterior match your interior. If you’re a tireless worker, maybe you’ve got some sagging skin, so you may want to nip and tuck. It’s a personal choice.”
Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
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