photo courtesy of Bradley Zisow

By Bryan Spann, Fort Meade Public Affairs Office 

Fort Meade Soldier Crowned Mrs. Maryland America!

Keisha Ruiz, a chief warrant officer stationed at Fort George G. Meade is the new Mrs. Maryland America.  Ruiz, a 21-year veteran of the Army was crowned at the Mrs. Maryland America pageant Aug. 29, in White Marsh, Maryland.


The pageant features highly accomplished, married women from across the state competing for the title of Mrs. Maryland America, and for the opportunity to represent Maryland at the national Mrs. America pageant.


For Ruiz, it wasn't her first attempt at the Mrs.  Maryland America title. She was previously a first runner-up.


“This is my fourth (pageant),” said Ruiz. “The Mrs. Maryland America pageant was actually the first pageant I ever did, and I loved it.  I got started basically with community service.  I didn't really know much about pageantry.  I wasn't really interested in pageantry, but I was interested in giving back to the community.”


The Army warrant officer has helped organize charity fund-raisers for multiple organizations throughout the state of Maryland including the homeless shelter, Sarah's House, just outside the Fort Meade gate.


“My platform is women's empowerment,” said Ruiz, adding “what I try to do is go out in the community and help empower women, help them be successful, encourage them to pursue their civilian education, and not to give up on their dreams. It's really about empowering women, empowering young ladies to be the best them they can be, because in the end when you empower women, you're empowering the world.”


Ruiz' commitment to community service starts at Caution-home.  She and her husband are raising four children in Elkridge, Maryland, and she has two step children in North Carolina.  “I've got my daughter out volunteering, and it's not just about women, my sons are out there helping with community service.  They're getting canned goods and dropping them off at food banks.  The whole family is a part of it.”


The Mrs. Maryland America pageant features an opening with the contestants introducing themselves, a swimsuit competition, an evening wear competition and probably the most important part, the interview.  “I'm glad I'm in the Army because sometimes it's really hard to get out there and show off if you're not physically fit and you're not confident in your body, so I enjoyed the swimsuit competition…that was fun for me.  Then we switched into evening wear and you get judged in each of those categories.  The one thing that you don't see in the audience is the interview.  The interview makes up 50% of your score,” says Ruiz.


When asked what the toughest interview question she received was, Ruiz laughed and said, “I think the question that may have been the hardest was, if you don't win, who should?  That's really hard for me, I feel like I'm the best person for the job!  I don't think anyone else should win!”


Despite that confidence, she was on edge as the winners were announced, “Not again…that's what was going through my mind,” said Ruiz. “I've been through this before.  I didn't want to be first runner-up again. So, as they're calling the winners and I'm standing on stage, my heart is dropping and I'm sweating now because second runner-up has been called and it's not me. First runner-up has been called and it's still not me, so either I won or I bombed it.  When they called my name, I almost passed out.  I held the former queen so tight, to me it felt like five minutes, it was probably more like five seconds.  But I felt like I was hugging her so tight, she was congratulating me and whispering in my ear, I'm so proud of you.  I was like, don't cry, don't cry.  I was super excited. Finally, I did it.”


With the pageant over and her year-long reign as Mrs. Maryland America beginning, Ruiz talked about how she'll fit in her new duties with her Army career, “It's going to be interesting.  The good news is my chain of command is very supportive.  They've been supportive since day one.  They know I'm about community service, they see it at the organization.  I'm always trying to set up fund-raisers or some sort of community service event within the organization,” she adds, “I think it boils down to time management.  Don't procrastinate, I know what I need to do for the job, so when the Army says do it, I do it.  I don't waste any time, I make sure I get the mission done.  Then with pageantry, again time management, managing expectation.  I don't want to set up an interview or fund raiser or community service event when I know my military schedule doesn't allow it.  The good thing about being in the Army, of course, is that we have our leave days.  So when it's time to go to nationals, I’ll make sure my leave is scheduled way in advance.”


Ruiz is looking forward to the national Mrs. America Pageant, to be held in late October in Las Vegas. 


“I think it's mostly getting mentally ready,” Ruiz said.  “When you compete for a state title, it's just 10 to 15 women competing for that title.  When you're going to nationals, you're going against the top performers in every single state.  So you need to start preparing for any interview questions, not just who should win, but what's going on in the world, what's going in politics, not just your platform, every platform.


“I feel like this opportunity to be a spokesperson for the women of Maryland, to represent the Mrs. Maryland America system and take it to the national level is an honor.  It's a privilege and I'm just super blessed and grateful for the opportunity.”