So as a New Year begins, I have a new idea for my blog. Through my life I have had many wonderful and challenging life experiences. I have met some incredible people who have helped me along my path and I have learnt so much from them. I have decided to share those special people with you.

I met Ruth in St Louis Missouri in 1983, while competing in The Miss Universe Pageant. Ruth was working for the Miss Universe Corporation as a a chaperone to Miss USA and Miss Universe. I shared an apt in New York with Miss USA and Ruth was our live in chaperone, and Miss USA’s travelling chaperone. I got to travel with Ruth also on a few of my international trips as Miss Universe. Becoming Miss Universe at the age of 19 was hugely daunting in so many ways. I learnt so much about myself and life and I can honestly say that without Ruth’s guidance during that year, it would have never turned out the way it did. Ruth and I have remained close friends since that year and she has mentored me through different phases of my life. It has been a friendship that has lasted 30 years and still strong as ever. I consider her one of the most influential woman in my life.This year I turn 50 and she turns 80.What I love about this woman is her passion and vitality for life and her astute wisdom. So here I share with you, Ruth Romero.

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1.  How did I begin my work with Miss Universe, Inc.

It was 1978 when I first moved to New York from California, 4 years after a painful divorce.  Why New York?  You might say.  After traveling there as a representative for a Chinese importing company and spending 15 days on an assigned promotion, I soon realized that I wanted to live in that city.  It was long enough for me to taste the energy and fall in love with it.  Deep down inside, I knew that one day I would return to live there.

Much to my surprise, 4 months later, my expertise in Chinese art caught our East coast competitor’s attention who offered me a wonderful contract to come and join his company.  I was excited and plenty scared.  Now, what do I do?  I knew I would accept, but had no clue how I would implement the logistics of a cross country move.   I accepted the move, but to my dismay my job only lasted 2 years.

Before long, I was fortunate to locate and accept a job managing a women’s upscale fashion boutique.  I loved the job and it was here that I crossed paths with a young college student whom I had hired as a part time salesperson.  Now a very close friend.  She had become aware of an Executive Search firm looking for a Traveling Companion for Miss Universe, Inc.  At that time, I knew nothing about pageants, but had watched one here and there, never with great curiosity.  One of the requirements, to be bi-lingual.  She urged me to go with the assurance that I was” perfect for the job.”  Time passed, only to give in several months later.

The day came when I reluctantly decided to connect with the executive search firm.  However, about a half hour before my appointment, I decided to just call and cancel the appointment.  I looked at the clock, fifteen minutes to go, when I heard a strong voice say, “When did you give up being curious?  Go and find out what it is all about.”  I agreed, walked across the street from where I was and entered the office on 5th Avenue.  Upon arriving, I heard the comments, “She has arrived, She is it.”  I felt frightened, what did they mean?  I knew little about pageants and nothing about the job.  But, believe it or not, that same afternoon I found myself sitting across the stuffy and arrogant pageant president who hired me on that same day.


2.  Explain what your job involved.

The job title was Traveling Companion, I personally changed it to Traveling Manager (Because “manage the ladies I did.”)  but Lorraine has always chosen to call me Chaperone.  To me, it was a combination of the above.   First order of business  was to communicate the responsibilities and duties clearly to each titleholder.  Then I  was to see that each titlist performed her professional duties whether at home or on the road.  For one year she was to be conscious of her title, making sure that she conducted herself in a professional manner.   I was offered a corporate apartment to share with both Miss USA and Miss Universe.  When at home we had curfews and had to be in no later than 12, and there were to be no overnight guests.  According to Miss Universe, Inc. rules, we were to protect the title and the company at all times.  They were public figures and their conduct was to remain impeccable.

Some of their responsibilities were sometimes forgotten, so it was my duty to remind them when needed.  One big one was the “forgotten” sash and/or crown.  The crown in particular was quite burdensome and painful to wear.  I understood clearly, but had to insist they follow company policy.   Appropriate professional dress for each appearance was a must.

Some of my duties involved  planning their wardrobe for the year which consisted of business and evening attire.  I was given a budget for each one.  There was preparation, which included my input and guidance  for media interviews, such as newspaper and television.  If we traveled to any of the Spanish speaking countries, I served as interpreter and on occasion faced the television camera myself.  Understanding the different countries and cultures was crucial and important for the ladies to know.

Most important for me, though it was not on my job description, was to make each girl feel at home and to express love and understanding.  The foreign girls in particular had difficult times.  I felt the need to embrace them as a mom or friend would.  However, remaining mindful that I worked for Miss Universe, Inc.  This was a fine line between the two that had to be considered.

Lorraine Downes 01

3. What made a great title holder?

The ladies who easily accepted the job with total responsibility, honesty and hard work.  Yes, hard work!  As an ambassador of goodwill meant a lot of travel to a great variety of countries.  Living out of a suitcase was challenging, but rewarding.  The pace was fast, but it meant a year of growth and maturity for the young ladies.

4. Were there any titleholders that you didn’t get along with?  Why?

Yes, unfortunately there were.  It was not that we did not get along.  As their manager I had to see that there would be no slacking of their responsibilities.  The women that ignored this created grief for themselves as well as for me, a representative of the company.   Their behavior was often a sign of insecurity, but unfortunately, was displayed as arrogant and envy.

On the other hand, I had the good fortune to have had three outstanding young ladies.  One Miss USA and two Miss Universes.  These ladies had a healthy sense of self worth and were industrious.  They were trustworthy and dependable even when the going was rough. In spite of their young years they accepted their responsibilities with enthusiasm., realizing  the year was only a stepping stone to their future and their goal was to learn as much as possible.   Lorraine was a gift to me.  She was the youngest of them all but her values and her openness to learn spoke loud and clear.  In a year’s time, it was obvious that the year’s experience enhanced her being with grace and more beauty!  She had a humility that was often foreign to titleholders.   New Zealand no doubt remains proud.  To this day, she remains the finest to have worn the crown.

5.  What have you done work wise since you left the Miss Universe Corporation?

I left Miss universe after being diagnosed with cancer.  After my recuperation, I accepted employment managing a couple of men’s departments at Brooks Bros, a men’s fine haberdashery on Madison Avenue, New York City.  I remained there until I left NY and moved to South Carolina where I began a successful career in real estate.

I left the east coast when I became a grandmother and decided I wanted to be close to my granddaughters.  So, I picked up and left for California where I also continued my real estate career.

After 10 years there, my daughter and her family decided to make a move to Boise, Idaho.  Wishing to remain close to my family and the fact that I was getting older, I followed them.

Once in Boise Idaho, I decided to develop my own business as Professional Image Consultant.  After the many years of planning wardrobes for men and women, I decided I could be a special gift to others by making myself available for personal consultations.  The thought of retiring never has entered my mind.  I enjoy being a business woman.  I find my job invigorating and very rewarding to my spirit with a strong sense of continuing to make a difference in other people’s lives and in the world I live in.  I love life!

Ruth 2011

6. My secret for looking the way I do?

I am presently 6 months away from my 80th birthday, am looking and feeling much younger than my chronological years.  I have been blessed with excellent health, a very youthful energy and a heart full of gratitude.  I live for this day and try to minimize negative thoughts about the tomorrows or what could have been yesterday.  I have learned that NOW is the only relevant moment in our lives, my choice is to be joyous.

I begin my day with quiet meditation, reading and writing to express my gratitude for endless blessings helps me maintain balance.   On occasion, I do have my slips along the way, only to remember the  responsibility I owe to my spirit and my body’s health.

My Mexican heritage gets the credit for my good genes.  However, I strongly believe that we are responsible for taking care of our bodies by giving it good healthy nourishment  and regular exercise.  Cooking for myself helps me accomplish the task.

I am grateful that medication is not required to keep me going.  I am convinced that the years do not mean that quality of life can no longer exist for us.  Our bodies are perfect machines that with love and tender care can give us many years of happy fulfilled lives.   A critical note:  I strongly recommend being pro-active and having a yearly physical exams and regular visits to the dentist.


7.  You made a decision to recently to stop colouring your hair, tell me about this experience?

As I approached my 79th birthday, I realized that my next birthday would be my 80th.  Many thoughts began to creep into my head, including the coloring of my hair.  Especially as I continued to notice the thinness of it and the contrast of dark hair verses light scalp showing through, not a pretty sight.  I soon figured that with gray hair, that contrast would be minimized.  Thoughts about appearing like a “ridiculous old lady” at 80 with dark hair and a fair amount of makeup was no longer sitting well with me.  Ah, I thought, now is the right time for me to go gray  but keep my makeup!  On my next visit to hairdresser, I shared my thoughts and voila, hair was stripped of color and here I was, gray in no time!  I was in shock and continued to be when looking in the mirror.  Each day less and less.  It is different and involves adjusting to it and the idea.

Now the curiosity began for me and others as a gray haired woman surfaced!    It was a revelation to hear the comments from family and friends.  It was almost as if they thought that being gray would all of a sudden create a fragile looking old lady out of me.  My son certainly had his strong opinion and did not hesitate to express his disdain for it.

The thought that I am now gray and supposedly by other’s standards, an older woman has affected my ego.  I keep telling myself that the color of my hair never defined me.  It is true, but egos die hard.  I have no regrets about it and I know that getting used to it will take time.  After all I sported dark hair for 79 years and have only been gray 6 months.

It seems that the interpretation of coloring hair carries a message of vanity and caring for many.  While going gray says,  “She is giving up.  Watch her age.”  Amongst some of the comments I heard were, i.e., ” can you believe it?”  “Wow, you are brave, but it looks good on you, you wear it well!” “Why would you want to do this?  You did look young with your dark hair you know.”  I have been an icon in my community and family for maintaining my well groomed and youthful appearance.  I still want to be that icon, not giving up, but embracing more of who I am.  Perhaps giving other women permission to embrace their grays as well.



8.  Life is not always easy. What has been the most challenging experience you have faced? How did you deal with it? What did you learn from it?

“Life is not easy,” truer words were never spoken.  I have had my ups and downs.,  Two very painful ones that stand out to me and perhaps affected me with the biggest changes in my life.  The divorce at 40 and a melanoma cancer at 50 when I lost my great toe by amputation in order to contain the dreadful disease.

I have said and believe with my whole heart that my divorce was the most painful experience of my life.  When faced with rejection from my husband, I saw no reason to continue living and I wanted to die.  Thoughts of abandonment were so intense I often thought of taking my life but never had the courage to do so.  The thought of raising my children alone was fearful,.  I had been a stay at home mom with no outside career.  I was afraid I would never survive and doubts of even being homeless crossed my mind.  I reached out to an older woman who became my confidante and who tenderly took me under her wing.  She suggested I see a therapist. Feeling desperate, I agreed and thus began my unfolding.

The journey was long and slow, but today I see it as part of my evolution.  It was a journey I had to take in order to find my wings and fly.  Of course, none of this was clear to me at the time.  Step by step and very slow I began to understand why me.  I strongly believe that our painful experiences come to us for one purpose and that is to grow.  Otherwise in comfort, we never think of making a change.

It took me several years to arrive at acceptance.  Slowly I began to realize that the depth of the abyss that I once felt was consuming me had now become more shallow by my understanding of what was happening.  I am reminded of “The Prophet” where he explains that “pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.”  I agree!  My life was definitely enhanced with understanding of myself, thus others.

For when I was diagnosed with cancer, and faced with my mortality, I no longer felt the depth of that abyss, nor  experience the pangs of despair as I once had.   That journey was fretful, true.  I was in the middle of menopause, plus dealing with a dead-end relationship.  Three big hurdles.  My Gynecologist suggested another trip to the therapist.  This time, I reacted, but soon gave in.  I did recognize another opportunity for growth and I needed help which I took.

This experience became a huge blessing, too.  A poor relationship in the past with my deceased mother became crystal clear to me.  First time I was able to truly feel compassion and forgiveness for the woman who gave birth to me, and who meant well in raising me.  I soon saw a woman who had been in pain all her life and who had had needs that we as women have.  Being totally oblivious, I was stuck looking for “the perfect mom.”  This lesson brought me greater understanding of our past relationship.  Yes, she was gone, and I was at peace.

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9.  My life advice?

First, live the moment with joy, for NOW is all we have.  Have no regrets, yesterday is gone, tomorrow has not yet come. The only thing we have is this present moment.  Be grateful for every breathing moment and live it with gusto and all the passion that you can muster.  If you are still here, your job on earth must continue, discover your purpose.

When pain comes knocking, see and accept it as a gift.  Do not try to push it under the rug, it won’t work.  Settle your past if it is bothering you and find out the WHYS.  You will find that golden nugget meant just for you.  Keep in mind that our “pain is the cracking of the shell that encloses your understanding.”  We are meant for big things, but must go through fire to find our refinement.  Crack the shell!

The last time together, 10 years ago. It's time that we meet up!

Our last visit together, 10 years ago. It’s time to make that catch up happen Ruth!