40-Year-Old Beauty Queen Mom Seeks Another Crown

South Florida mom a finalist in Ms. America pageant

Read More

" data-ellipsis="false">

Did you know there's a Ms. America pageant?

No? Well neither did Kelly Ruggiero. Not until the 40-year-old stay-at-home mom from Parkland was named a Ms. America finalist.

The Ms. America pageant will be held this Sunday in Anaheim, California and it's just like Miss America, except it's for women age 26 and over.

Ruggiero never competed in beauty pageants growing up, but entered her first "adult" pageant last November and won, earning the crown for Mrs. Broward County.

"I don't see my mom as a beauty queen," said Ruggiero's 13-year-old daughter Jessie. She and her sister Amanda might not see their mom as Ms. America, but they understand that she's doing it for them.

Both Amanda and Jessie suffered from an illness called Dysautonomia. And by competing in pageants, Ruggiero is spreading awareness so other children can avoid what her children went through.

"Their whole body starts shutting down," Ruggiero explained. "They look normal on the outside, but their insides no longer work."

Dysautonomia affects the nervous system, and for Ruggiero's daughters it meant stomach pain, body aches and diziness. Doctors said the only cure was to tough it out until they turned 20.

"There was no way my child was going to suffer four or five more years in this condition," said Ruggiero.

And that's why she researched the illness day and night -- and says she found a medical treatment normally used for adults, that also worked on her daughters. Today, they're completely healthy and symptom-free.

"For me, the opportunity to spread the word and teach people about this illness that affects so many teenagers," Ruggiero said, "It's a wonderful opportunity and experience. I never expected it."

Follow Adam Kuperstein on Twitter at @akuperstein.

Contact Us