Cassandra Provencher stood on her front lawn balancing one daughter on her hip while her other two children played nearby on an inflatable water slide. Barefoot and wearing denim shorts and a tank top, her long auburn hair wasn’t spun into a fabulous updo and she was wearing little, if any makeup. There was no runway, no stage, no sign of high heels, ball gowns or crowns.
Provencher was in her everyday garb, performing her everyday duties as a stay-at-home mom and wife. If one didn’t already know, they likely wouldn’t guess that she was crowned Mrs. Maine-America earlier this year.
While grabbing snacks for Shania, 5, and Mariah, 3, with Rihanna, 17 months, still snugly tucked on her hip, Provencher made introductions and then gave a quick tour of the house she and husband Andre have had for two years.
And while Provencher’s most prized titles are of wife and mother, she was crowned Mrs. Maine-America on Feb. 5, 2012 in Saco. Her platform is helping children deal with divorce and understand that it’s not their fault.
Spend any time with her, and it’s clear that Provencher is all about her family. Even her involvement in the Mrs. Maine pageant was driven by a desire to help her family and bring a positive light into their lives.
Provencher’s parents divorced when she was young, leaving her mother to raise her and her four siblings primarily alone, with some help from Provencher’s grandmother.
After her parents’ divorce when she was 10 years old Provencher didn’t see or speak to her father for several years and the relationship with her mother was strained at times.
Provencher remembers crying after school, feeling like she had no one to talk to, but she didn’t let those struggles stop her from living a seemingly normal life.
She grew up in Sanford and attended Sanford High School where she balanced soccer, basketball and track with multiple jobs. After high school, she went to school for cosmetology.
As she set off on her own and started a family in her hometown of Sanford, she realized how big of an effect her parents’ divorce had on her.
This realization led her to six years of therapy, during which she learned to express her emotions and that she couldn’t change what had happened, but that she could move on.
After hearing someone talk about pageants, she began looking online and found Mrs. Maine. She thought the competition would be a fun way to push herself and give her family something to look forward to, so she entered.
“Going into the pageant, I was determined to pull myself out of so much,” Provencher said, referring to her childhood.
The pageant became a new direction for her and her family.
It was all about “just being me” and believing that there is hope, that something positive can come out of a negative experience, she said.
She described the pageant process as a learning experience that’s bringing her something new and exciting every day. It has also pushed her to look differently at life. But in the end, the pageant is just as much about her children as herself.
“If I can make myself stronger in any way, my kids are going to see that. They already admire it. When I’m doing things for the pageant they’re so excited,” she said.
Provencher is involving her girls as much as she can. She said she hopes that this will be a positive and encouraging experience for the whole family. Provencher has been choosing active volunteer projects that the children can be involved in, such as parades.
“I want to include my family because it’s about us,” she said.
Even though the pageant focuses on the wife, Provencher realizes that her family is the main reason behind it.
The Mrs. Maine-America pageant included 13 married delegates, competing in multiple categories: personal interview, swimsuit/fitness and evening gown. The participants are judged individually based on personality, responses to questions and appearance.
Provencher’s husband, Andre, played a small part in the pageant by walking with her during the evening gown section. Provencher describes Andre as her biggest supporter, saying that she is thankful for him and her girls, and their support. She’s also appreciative of her sponsors.
“A lot of people have been very kind and generous sponsoring me, which has been huge,” she said. “I’m a stay-at-home mom, my husband’s the only provider. It’s so hard even trying to prepare with the gowns.”
The coming Mrs. America pageant will feature married delegates from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and will feature the same categories as the Mrs. Maine-America pageant. Provencher has picked out one ensemble so far, a blue ball gown to wear with a blueberry basket she made.
“I used to go blueberry picking with my grandmother,” Provencher said, noting that they had a close relationship.
Her grandmother recently died, but helped raise Provencher and has always been one of her idols. Provencher considers the outfit and the pageant being in Arizona, where her grandmother died, to be signs that she’s moving in the right direction.
“I swear she’s an angel above because she gave me an angel, and she [sits] on my windowsill. It’s helped me to believe more in myself and know that I wouldn’t be alone.”
In addition to preparations, volunteer work, raising three girls and being a wife, Provencher makes time to be an advocate for helping people deal with childhood divorce. Therapy helped her learn that the best way to heal is to talk, and that although she sometimes has felt responsible for what happened she can’t blame herself.
“It’s not a child’s fault,” Provencher said, adding that she wants to share that message with others who have suffered through divorces. By sharing her story she hopes to help others open up and feel like they have a voice. She’s trying to show that negative experiences don’t define who a person is, and that with a positive outlook, any negative situation can be overcome.
“[The pageant] is a real story of what I’ve been through and what I’m going through,” Provencher said. As she prepares to compete in the coming pageant Aug. 23-29 in Tuscon, Ariz. Provencher will keep herself and her family as the main focus.
“I can’t change anyone. I can’t change anything that’s gone on. But, I can direct myself and my family towards a more positive outlook on life,” she said.