Tatyoon farmer and secondary school teacher Leila McDougall represents Australia at Mrs International

TATYOON farmer and secondary school teacher Leila McDougall’s efforts to help her fellow primary producers earned her a trip to community service pageants in Sydney and the United States.

Two weeks ago, Mrs McDougall was battling it out with women from around the world at the Mrs International pageant in Charleston, West Virginia.

The pageant’s aim, as the organisers state, is to “promote today's married women, their accomplishments, and commitment to family and marriage”.

Mrs McDougall had just given birth to her second child, Vivian, just eight weeks before the US pageant, having won the previous Mrs International Australia pageant in Sydney while in the early stages of pregnancy.

“I had a bit of a belly but people weren’t game enough to ask if I was pregnant or not,” Mrs McDougall said.

The Australian and international pageant events had a strong emphasis on community service.

“It’s run for women who are doing things in the community and who want to publicise their charities or be an ambassador for their charities,” Mrs McDougall said.

“I had a friend say, ‘you should do this to promote your charity,’ so I did.

“I had to compete in a state final, which is all interview-based, and then I got through the national finals and hod to go to Sydney for a week of competing.

“70 per cent is on your interview and then you have on-stage with a ball gown, fashion-ware and fitness-wear There’s no bikini thing, thank God.”

As a sheep, cattle and cropping farmer, Mrs McDougall helps run the Live Rural group that helps raise money for farmer health and runs the Mellow Yellow event.

“It has been good for the charity because I have been able to go along to events and speak about what we do,” she said.

“We raise money for the National Centre for Farmer Health and for supporting farmers.

“We had a farmer health check day in Tatyoon and a women’s forum once each month starting with guest speakers.”

Mrs McDougall, who placed 17th, said the competition was fierce in West Virginia.

“There was 62 women there and we all had our different charities. I was the only agricultural one but the other women had some amazing things,” she said. 

“They were pretty much chief executives of their own organisations. There was a lot with organisations around bullying, foster kids and domestic violence.”

Mrs McDougall said it was much more about achievements than a standard beauty pageant.

“You could tell that it wasn’t about looks. There were all shapes and sizes and ages groups. There was a 70-year-old woman competing.

“There were some drop dead-gorgeous women who were there to win. They had their game face on. It was hilarious. They didn’t mingle and had headphones on. They were so focused.”