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The beautiful inspiration of Larissa Long, Mrs. Bellevue America | Scene
At 35-years-old, Larissa Long has already had a full life. She married young and remained in the marriage for seven years, with two children born from the union; Ethan Tucey, 12, and Nadia Tucey, 10. It didn't work out, but she is on good terms with her ex-husband. It wasn't always easy though.
"He moved away; I was broke, a single mom with a son who needed constant therapy, and we were homeless for a very short time," Long said.
The point she likes to get across is not to let your past define who you are. She worked her way out of it and made it, before meeting her current husband, Eric Long. They have a 6-year-old daughter, Kira Long.
"I came from this low-end where I worked part-time at a casino and part-time at a youth center — complete opposites," she laughed. "I did what I had to do."
She was 22 when she had Ethan who is autistic. Ethan didn't start talking until he was 5-years-old, but now he is fully functional, but does not understand social cues. Long said he attends a public school in North Bend and is doing well.
In the Mrs. America pageants, contestant platforms are crucial. Since autism is close to home, she is active in philanthropic causes that revolve around autism. "Queens of Autism," a pageant that raises money for autism is close to her heart she said. Long doesn't compete in it, but both autistic and non-autistic boys and girls as young as 15-months to 45-years-old do compete.
How Long got involved in pageantry started when she was chair of a local group for "Autism Speaks." She wanted to bring more attention to the cause. She met another contestant through another charity she supported, who suggested Long compete.
Long started out as Mrs. Pacific Northwest which was sort of given to her because there were no other competitors. Now, she has been Mrs. Bellevue America for one year — Bellevue's first in the Mrs. America organization. The winner of Mrs. America will advance to Mrs. World.
"It's a different organization, but they work closely with Miss America and Miss USA," Long said.
She said first you must apply, you must be between the ages of 18 and 55, be married and be resident of Washington State to compete in Mrs. Washington America. Contestants are judged in interviews, swimsuit — which they call fitness, and wear sarongs — and evening gown. But the judges will be looking first and foremost at their platforms.
"Pam (Curnel, state director/producer of Mrs. Washington America) is very much about community service — contestants need to make a difference," Long said. "But we are judged on fitness, grace and poise."
Long said the contestants have all become friends. One is a pastor whose goal is to help with hunger and water issues in third world countries, while another contestant has taken up chemical awareness as her platform after her husband became very ill after being exposed to toxic chemicals at work.
"You see these women and what's important to them," Long said.
Long is also passionate about The Hope Heart Institute, a local non-profit raising money for cardiovascular research and education since she has lost several family members to heart disease.
See Your Impact is another local group she supports. It uses donations to help one person — or an entire village — then the organization sends you an email to tell you exactly how your money was used, whether it was to put a girl through school or drill a well in Africa.
Lastly, she is supportive of Queen, It's a New Day, a group that helps women who have been neglected or abused. They start with a two-day makeover from the inside out, head to toe, to show these women their worth, then advocate for them all year.
Not only is Long busy with her philanthropic work, with a degree in public relations and broadcasting, she started her own online magazine, "Mode," which was born out of a beauty and fashion blog. She combined philanthropy to the magazine, which will also be in print in March. Although the Longs live in North Bend currently, Mrs. Bellevue America must either reside or work in Bellevue, and almost all of Long's work is in Bellevue; Eric Long works in Bellevue as well. In fact, he encouraged her to enter the pageant world.
"He's my biggest supporter," she said. "We include the kids in everything."
Tickets for Mrs. Washington America are $45 and can be purchased at the Meydenbauer Convention Center's events page.