By Christine Valdez
Web Production Assistant
Over the years the pageant world has been used to finding the “Miss” and the “Miss Teen,” but now the pageant world has expanded to the point where competing in a pageant isn’t limited to single females. Erin Molinaro learned that this year when she won Mrs. New Jersey America.
Molinaro had been exposed to the pageant experience from an early age. After she had been told about the Miss New Jersey Teen USA pageant at the age of 17, she decided to give the pageant a try. Molinaro — who had entered the pageant under her then maiden name Erin Abrahamson — was no stranger to being on stage. She had been involved with the Paper Mill Playhouse along with singing and acting at other venues.
The opportunity to compete at Miss New Jersey Teen USA was just the path that Molinaro would take, not only in her quest for the crown at the pageant but her quest to inspire people and to bring awareness to causes that have meant a lot to her.
Over the years, Molinaro has competed twice at Miss New Jersey Teen USA — finishing as the runner-up her first try and then winning the title in 2001. She then competed years later at Miss New Jersey USA, finishing as the first runner-up in 2007, but received the title after the winner resigned a month later due to her pregnancy. Those two title reigns allowed Molinaro to not only travel across the state and make appearances, but also to learn about various causes and participate in fundraisers and events bringing awareness to cancer.
Years later, Molinaro made a return to the pageant scene. This time she had signed up to compete in Mrs. New Jersey America, a pageant that is affiliated with the Mrs. America and Mrs. World pageants. Unlike the Miss New Jersey USA and Miss New Jersey Teen USA pageants, Mrs. New Jersey is opened to married women. Molinaro had gotten married and was entered as Erin Molinaro instead of Erin Abrahamson.
Prior to making her return to the pageant word, Molinaro had not only gotten married but she had established her life and career as a pharmaceutical sales rep.
“I’ve always wanted to enter into the Mrs. New Jersey America pageant, obviously once I was married and happily married and settled and my career has taken off,” said Molinaro.
Although she always planned to enter into the pageant, Molinaro originally didn’t plan to compete in 2015. After she had her professional life established, at home she was getting ready to start a family. Molinaro says that earlier in the year she found that she was expecting her first child, but suffered a miscarriage early in her pregnancy.
Although she had won two previous titles in her life, Molinaro had wanted to continue competing but when she had the opportunity to start a family she had put her plans on hold. Unfortunately it did not work out the way she thought it would have.
“Right after I won Miss New Jersey Teen USA and then I won Miss New Jersey and I was like, wow this is incredible. And my goal is to win another title,” she said. “I entered this pageant last minute after I had miscarried in January and I said, ‘You know what? This is my goal.'”
Despite the situation, Molinaro decided to enter the pageant and continue her quest for another title.
After deciding to do one more pageant, Molinaro chose to pick the American Cancer Society as her cause for the Mrs. New Jersey America pageant. The Cancer Society has been a cause close to Molinaro and her family. She had been volunteering and raising awareness about cancer prior to the pageant and had joined a group in South Jersey to help raise awareness.
“I’m part of a committee… just joined a committee down here in Monmouth County to just help spread more awareness,” she said.
So once she was entered into the pageant, Molinaro competed against a field of 10 women hoping to become the next Mrs. New Jersey America. With past pageant experience and a cause that she was devoted to, she was ready to compete.
Despite the last minute decision to compete, Molinaro was able to stand out from the rest of the competition and go on to win her third pageant title. With the events that she had gone through before the pageant, Molinaro says that the win is an emotional one for her.
“This is probably one of the biggest accomplishments for me personally because not only I would say, not only over the past couple of years has everything been great,” she said. “And I’ve been successful at winning pageants and my career and my life, I’ve also obviously challenged some adversity.”
Along with winning the crown this past May, Molinaro will get the opportunity to continue competing, since the title of Mrs. New Jersey guarantees her a spot in Mrs. America.
While her journey as Mrs. New Jersey continues, Molinaro says that not only will she be balancing time between Mrs. New Jersey and her career, but she wants to do more volunteering and continue with her family’s project — Tony’s Poundcakes. Through Tony’s Poundcakes, Molinaro and her family make cakes to sell with all of the proceeds going toward the Cancer Society. She still plans to continue contributing to the committee in Monmouth County.
“This title as Mrs. New Jersey is really going to allow me to work on creating awareness for the Cancer Society,” she said.
Molinaro also hopes to inspire and empower women through her one-year reign as Mrs. New Jersey and inspire them to reach their goals.
“This is one of my outlets and I hope as Mrs. New Jersey I can touch not only teenagers, young women but also Mrs. around New Jersey because I definitely have experienced a lot over the past 31 years of my life — good and bad,” said Molinaro. “I want to share with everyone and not only make them think that this is, you know, a newer crown and glamour, but I feel like through my experiences I can empower and inspire women.”
Although Molinaro has goals for her reign as Mrs. New Jersey, she is also preparing to compete in one more pageant — the Mrs. America pageant. Even though she originally set her mind to winning one more crown when she signed up for Mrs. New Jersey, she has the opportunity to possibly win another and the opportunity to compete in Mrs. World.
“I’d say within the next six months, I’ll be competing for Mrs. America, with all of the contestants around the country,” said Molinaro. “So the next six months will be really focusing on preparing for that, which will obviously be continuing with my journey in support of the Cancer Society.”
With the Mrs. America pageant possibly being her final pageant, Molinaro says that competing has been an incredible experience for her ever since she began at the age of 17. Since winning her first title, she says that the pageant world has changed her life and that it has allowed her to do things that not many get the opportunity to experience. With one more pageant left, she says that she is ready to compete but also ready to begin her dream of starting a family.
Despite her pageant tenure possibly coming to an end, Molinaro said that she still plans to stay around the pageant scene, even if she is not competing.