Ms. Washington returns from Las Vegas a winner

"Peggy Thomas of Langley, right, with Tamara Waite, Ms. U.S. 2000, after Thomas won the evening gown competition at the Ms. U.S. Continental Pageant in Las Vegas last month.There were more than three dozen Whidbey Islanders in Las Vegas on a late August weekend this past summer. But they didn't go there to see the big name acts or play blackjack or roulette. They were supporters of Peggy Thomas, and they were cheering on the woman from South Whidbey who was competing as Ms. Washington in the 2000 Ms. U.S. Continental Pageant, held in Las Vegas Aug. 24-28.My sister and a friend came out from Virginia, and another sister from Edmonds, Thomas said. The rest were all from Whidbey. It was wonderful. I think it was also a good excuse to go to Vegas, she laughed.Her guests were rewarded for their dedication on pageant night, when Thomas won the Ms. U.S. Continental Pageant's Evening Gown Competition.The award came after an intense four days of preparation.There were tons of rehearsals, Thomas said. The competitors practiced eight hours a day for a dance routine to Madonna's Vogue, worked on their aerobic wear and evening gown presentations, had some active R & R in the pool and at bowling parties, and prepared for their individual interviews. Those could encompass any of a broad range of questions.The judges worked from our submitted biographies, but they could go off them and ask anything, Thomas said. One of the hardest questions she faced was, What is the biggest ethical challenge facing women today?'Thomas says she felt she answered it well: Raising children with morals, even with all the violence, sex and drugs in the media. On pageant night she faced a different set of criteria to win the Evening Gown Competition, which was judged on personal style and poise.The 6-foot-tall Thomas wore 4-inch heels and a long slim dress of a deep plum color that was made by Donnell Anderson of Freeland's Heirloom Designs. (I wanted something that was not red or black or blue or white, which most contestants wear, she said.)Shawn Nordin from Studio A in Langley, where Thomas is a hairstylist, came down to Las Vegas to do her hair for the competition. And her friends, family and fans applauded wildly.My kids (Mariah, 9, and Taylor, 7) were allowed to come on stage and take pictures with me there, Thomas added. Back now to her life on the island, Thomas has nothing but good things to say about her experience.The women there were amazing, she said. The contestants were all between the ages of 24 and 52. One was a politician's wife from the state of Arkansas (I didn't ask if she knew the Clintons), another was a nurse anesthetist.The woman who won the title is in her 40s. She has five kids and a body like a 19-year-old, said Thomas, who is 35. They inspired her, and she is determined to inspire others, through an emphasis on physical fitness and weight loss as a means to personal growth. She continues to work out at Momentum, the Clinton gym that was one of her major pageant sponsors. And her pageant involvement has encouraged her to continue school, where she is now training as a weight management specialist.I want to help others go in the direction I did, with the same good outcome, she said. "

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