While pageants are challenged by health and safety requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic, the show must go on for some. That includes Bellevue resident Linda Hoffner, who won Mrs. Washington 2020 and will be going on to represent the state in Mrs. America this fall.
Hoffner lives in Bellevue with her family and works as a senior property manager for commercial real estate.
After 20 years out of pageantry, she had her first run at Mrs. Washington in 2019, where she placed top 10. She found the pageant while she was looking for information on ways to empower women in the workplace. She promoted equity in the workplace through her “Corporate Crowns” platform at the pageants this year, and founded her company’s Women’s Leadership Committee. Hoffner said all the skills she’s learned running for Mrs. Washington have also helped her career.
“If you can stand on a stage in a swimsuit in front of 200 people… the confidence from doing that is pretty powerful,” Hoffner said.
This year leading up to the competition, Hoffner said her and the other contestants had to get creative with being present in their communities. A major part of the Mrs. Washington America pageant is the work participants do in community service. For Hoffner, that meant supporting her children’s peers at Renton School District by volunteering to deliver meals on Saturdays while school was shut down, and supporting senior residents at Aegis Living in Newcastle with food and supplies.
“On a different year we would have been out doing Fourth of July parades and all those fun things, and this year was really focused on helping people in need, because there were so many more people that had been impacted by COVID,” Hoffner said.
The pageant itself was very different too, with no audience, one person at a time for interviews, evening gowns, and an outdoor distanced ceremony for the crowning.
One positive and emotional difference this year, Hoffner said, was the crowning for the winner usually is done by the husband of the contestant, but this year contestants crowned themselves. She said crowning herself as Mrs. Washington was powerful amongst the 19 other contestants.
“You knew you put in all this hard work and done the best you could, and being able to walk up to this table, grab the sash and crown and crown yourself and turn around was incredibly powerful,” Hoffner said.
Mrs. Washington Pageant is a preliminary to the Mrs. America Pageant. The pageant was established to honor married women throughout the United States. The Mrs. Washington Pageant highlights women from all over the state to showcase their achievements and passion for their communities.
Normally Hoffner would be running from event to event to offer her support both as Mrs. Washington and Mrs. Bellevue in preparation for the upcoming national pageant, but the pandemic has made it difficult. Those needing promotional or volunteer assistance, even virtually, can contact Hoffner through her Facebook or Instagram accounts.
She said right now the Mrs. America pageant is expected around the end of October, but depends on the status of the COVID-19 pandemic in Las Vegas, where it’s held. Hoffner is hoping to bring home the second wining title for Washington in this pageant.
More information on Mrs. Washington is available at mrswashingtonpageant.org.