She is the first Mrs. Illinois-America to win the Mrs. America title in its 42-year history, Cook said. She competed in interviews, evening gown and swimsuit.
“It was very busy, very fun, very full of energy just like you would expect Las Vegas to be,” Cook said.
Cook tried unsuccessfully for the title in 2014 when she was 29. She was able to compete this time because pageant rules changed to allow former contestants to try again.
As she has had two children since than – a 2 1/2 -year-old boy and a 1-year-old boy – the competition was a great motivator to get back in shape, Cook said.
She was at the competition for nine days, as the lead-up days are preliminary to get the number of contestants to 15 for the actual pageant.
Cook said she had private interviews with six judges. The interview is 50 percent of the competition with swimsuit and evening gown 25 percent each.
“It’s a very important piece for a very good reason,” Cook said of the interview portion. “The pageant is only one day out of 365 that the woman will have the title. It is important to know who she is, her mission and what goals she has and what kind of person she is.”
Celebrity judges included Jessica Lynch – a former U.S. Army soldier who was freed as a war prisoner in the 2003 invasion of Iraq – and actress Pia Zadora, Cook said.
The national platform for Mrs. America is Victoria’s Voice Foundation, a charity devoted to promoting ways to reduce drug experimentation, addiction and overdose.
Westgate Resorts President and CEO David Siegel lost his daughter Victoria to a prescription opioid overdose on June 6, 2015 when she was 18.
Cook said her former brother-in-law also died of an opioid overdose, and she saw firsthand the devastation his death caused her sister, niece and nephew.
“I’ve reached out to a couple of DARE programs and I’m speaking at a couple DARE graduations,” Cook said.
But her first official act as Mrs. America will participate in the Marshall County Blueberry Festival in Plymouth, Ind. – her hometown – over the Labor Day weekend.
“I was invited to be in the parade,” Cook said. “They are proud of the hometown girl.”