Just before the congressional recess, Michaela Gagne, Miss Massachusetts, visited Capitol Hill to discuss her heart condition. Here, 20Questions profiles the 24-year-old Fall River, Mass., beauty queen about her thoughts on everything from President Bush to gay marriage to presidential hopeful and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R). Gagne graduated from the University of Massachusetts-Amherst and earned a master’s in art therapy from Lesley University. Her reign lasts until June.
So what are you doing on Capitol Hill?
I was at a congressional briefing this morning to give my story of my battle with heart disease.
What is your heart condition?
I was 17 years old. I had been getting dizzy while playing sports. I discovered I had QT Syndrome, the kind you hear about when athletes drop dead. It was frightening. I was told in any moment of my first 17 years of life I could have dropped dead.
What did you have to do?
I got a cardiac defibrillator implanted in my chest.
Is that a pacemaker?
Mine has a built-in pacemaker.
When did you become Miss Massachusetts?
This past June.
Was that exciting?
It was very exciting. I can share my story and help create the legislation that’s needed [such as the Heart for Women Act].
How many women were competing?
Did you think you’d win?
I thought I had a really good chance. I was second runner-up the year before.
What about Miss America?
I already went this past January. I didn’t win [laughs].
What do you think about women in these pageants who party too much — specifically, Miss USA winner Tara Conner, who, after pictures revealed her partying, was ultimately allowed to hold onto her title?
Women in these roles need to be role models to children.
Do you indulge at times?
I don’t partake in the crazy lifestyle. I’m too busy to go crazy and a lot of my work is promoting a heart-healthy lifestyle.
Who are the most exciting people you met on the Hill today?
The speakers I spoke with in the WiseWoman program.
The lawmakers weren’t exciting?
Oh yes, they were exciting.
I got to meet with Rep. [James] McGovern (D-Mass.), who is warm and inviting. That was a huge highlight of the day.
Have you met Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.)?
I have not.
Do you believe in gay marriage?
I believe in the civil union of any two people who wish to have one.
What do you think of George Bush?
I’m not a politician. I like to focus on the causes. I’ll just leave it at that.
And Mitt Romney?
I wish him the best of luck. He made a lot of good decisions for Massachusetts.
Are you Republican or Democrat?
I’m an independent.
What’s your beauty regimen?
To be honest, I’m a T-shirt-and-jeans type of girl. I was the most unlikely beauty contestant. When I was diagnosed, I was a true jock. I took up the pageant as another form of competition.
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