Marisa and Marcello
(Courtesy of Marisa Barnard)
If there were ever a case for doing away with the crazy cat lady stereotype for good, I would put my money on Marisa Barnard, Miss Naugatuck Valley 2012. The 19-year-old beauty is a devoted cat lover, who recently parlayed her passion into a virtual cat pageant to help raise money for the Children's Miracle Network.
Barnard, who is currently busy preparing to compete for the title of Miss Connecticut later this month, recently chatted with me about her two beloved cats, Diamond and Marcello, and the inspiration behind starting the Miss/Mr. ConnectiCAT Pageant. I also (tried) to get the scoop on how her felines have prepared her for pageant life - and the answer I got isn't as catty as you would think!
Read on for more!
Catsparella: Can you please tell us a little about yourself? How long have you been competing in pageants?
Marisa Barnard: I am currently a 19 year-old rising junior at Connecticut College. I’m a Psychology major and Dance and English double minor. I have a passion for dance, and I have been dancing for over 15 years. I really enjoy volunteering and giving back to the community. One day I hope to be a motivational speaker and encourage others to follow and achieve their dreams.
I started competing in pageants when I was 15 years-old. In the first pageant I entered, I ended up winning first runner-up, and since then pageantry has become a part of my life. In 2009 I was Miss Hartford County’s Outstanding Teen, and in 2010 I was Miss Brass City. I am currently Miss Naugatuck Valley 2012 and I will be competing for Miss Connecticut at the Garde Arts Center in New London from June 28-30th. Becoming Miss Connecticut would truly mean the world to me, and it is a goal I am determined to accomplish. I’m so excited! It’s right around the corner!
Have you always been a cat lover?
Yes, definitely. I love all animals, but I grew up with having cats. Nobody was home during the day to take care of a dog, so my family always had felines.
Please tell us a little about your two cats, Diamond and Marcello!
My cats mean so much to me. I love them both so much. Diamond (or nickname Diama) was a stray cat born under my grandparent’s porch. She came into my life when I was 5 years-old. At the time, we had two other cats, but they were my mom’s. Diamond was mine. I finally had a cat to myself. She is a tuxedo cat and currently 14 years-old.
After my mom’s cat passed away a few years ago, we were determined to find a new member of the family. We found Marcello on Petfinder.com at a no-kill animal shelter in Westbrook, CT. His previous owners left him on the doorstep of the shelter without any paperwork or information about him. He is about 9 or 10 years old and a Silver Chinchilla Persian cat. We have had him for 5 years now, but he and Diamond do not get along at all whatsoever. At least they are able to live with one another!
Do you think that having cats has in any way helped prepare you for your pageant career?
Yes, definitely. Having cats inspired me to create the Miss/Mr. ConnectiCAT Pageant. I created everything on my own, which has given me great organizational skills. I have talked to several reporters across the state about the pageant and practiced my communication skills. I’ve had to market the cat pageant on my own as well, which has helped me to promote my issue of concern, “Volunteering: A Work of Heart,” the Miss Connecticut Scholarship Organization, the Miss America Organization, and the Children’s Miracle Network.
What inspired you to come up with the idea of Miss/Mr ConnectiCAT Pageant?
Every contestant in the Miss America Organization is asked to have a specific platform issue or issue of concern that they are passionate about. Mine is titled “Volunteering: A Work of Heart.” I love volunteering because I believe it is a genuine and selfless act that truly comes from the heart.
I wanted to come up with a unique and fun fundraiser that would get numerous people across the state involved and raise donations for the Children’s Miracle Network, which is an organization that raises funds for children’s hospitals throughout the U.S. After taking all of this into consideration, I invented the Miss/Mr. ConnectiCAT pageant! Why not combine my two loves: cats and pageantry?!
What has the response been like so far?
The response has been amazing! So far I have over 35 “catntestants” and raised over $400 for the Children’s Miracle Network. I have received a lot of positive responses, so I’m hoping to make this an annual event. It truly has been a blast, and I know the final outcome is going to be great.
How can readers enter their own cats in the virtual pageant?
I’m still looking for “catestants.” The deadline is June 20th. If you are interested, please send 2 photos of your cat, interesting facts or your cat’s “story,” and owner contact information to firstname.lastname@example.org. There is a $10 entry fee per “catestant,” which is a donation to the Children’s Miracle Network. This can be made online a http://www.missamericaforkids.org/donate/marisabarnard or everything can be sent in the mail to 7 Frederick Street, Oakville, CT 06779.
Special thanks to Marisa for taking the time to talk with me. It is her kind and generous spirit that truly makes her beautiful on the inside and out! We have our paws crossed that she will win the title of Miss Connecticut, and continue to raise the profile of cool cat ladies everywhere!
To learn more about the reigning Miss Naugatuck Valley, and to check out the current "catestants" in the virtual pageant (or to enter one of your own), please visit Marisa's official Facebook Fan Page: https://www.facebook.com/MissNaugatuckValley2012.