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Behind the Tiara with Bravo’s 'Game of Crowns' – Get the Exclusive Interview!

Behind the Tiara with Bravo’s 'Game of Crowns' – Get the Exclusive Interview!

Think you’ve seen it all on the Real Housewives franchise? Well just wait until you watch what happens when married women are competing for a sparkly crown on the new Bravo docu-series Game of Crowns!

The show follows the lives of six pageant wives on the “Mrs.” Pageant circuit whose lives revolve around glamour, perfection, and winning at any cost.

While the ladies might be preaching world peace on stage during the competitions, it is all war when they step backstage and the spotlight isn’t on them anymore.

You can catch the series premiere this Sunday, July 13 @ 9/8c on Bravo, but first get an inside-look at the show directly from two of the pageant wives themselves – Leha Guilmette and Shelley Carbone.

Click inside to check out our exclusive interviews with the Game of Crowns ladies…

(L-R) Shelley Carbone, Lynne Diamante, Leha Guilmette, Susanna Paliotta, Lori-Ann Marchese, Vanassa Sebastian

Just Jared: In your own words, tell us a little about Game of Crowns and what we can expect from this new show?

Leha Guilmette: The show will be a roller coaster of excitement, suspense and shockers as the cast opens the doors to the backstage preparations of the Mrs. Beauty pageant world as well as our personal lives. It exposes what we love and hate about pageantry while juggling it all with our daily lives.

Shelley Carbone: Game of Crowns is an incredibly unique docu-series that follows the lives of six women involved in pageantry. Our experiences and views, as well as our pageant histories, are all very different. In life and in pageantry… don’t believe everything you see! It gets a little crazy when the hair and makeup comes off and the lies come out! The level of competition amps up when the ladies know their wins and losses are being filmed for TV!

JJ: What is it about beauty pageants that you enjoy the most?

LG: Pageants give me a glamorous way to set goals for myself and stay accountable. For the most part, the competition and being with the other ladies is a lot of fun… and so is the shopping!

SC: I enjoy beauty pageants that truly celebrate and honor women. It’s a celebration of who we have become, what we’ve accomplished and our hopes for the future. Pageantry is extremely introspective. You need to know what makes you tick! What are your passions, what drives and motivates you? What kind of person are you? You need to know your “who, what, where and why” because believe me…they are going to ask about it!

JJ: What do you dislike the most about beauty pageants?

LG: That some women that compete take it too seriously. Listen, we all want to win but if you don’t, life as we know it doesn’t end when you step off the stage! Pageantry is supposed to teach you how to fail, it’s how you handle and bounce back from that failure that is the lesson.

SC: My experiences with pageants have mostly been positive! If I had to choose an aspect of pageantry that I dislike, I would have to say it is how pageants and the contestants are portrayed in the media. I feel that “Beauty Queens” get a bad rap. Most of the women I have met are some of the most intelligent, accomplished, educated, beautiful, family-oriented women I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.

JJ: We often see embarrassing viral videos of contestants during the interview portion of a pageant – have you had any personal embarrassing moments with the interview part of a pageant? And what advice would you give for answering the interview questions?

LG: I wouldn’t say that I have had an embarrassing interview, just the dreaded embarrassing moment question. My advice for interview is just to be completely honest and genuine. It is not a contest on the woman who is perfect, with perfect answers and articulation. These judges are looking for someone that is approachable, speaks from the heart, and can represent the organization accordingly.

SC: My heart goes out to every woman that has answered questions on stage in front of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of people. If you don’t think it’s intimidating and stress producing, try it and let me know how that works out for you! My advice is to practice, practice, practice! That… and possibly utilize a pageant interview coach, or at least buy his book! “Did I just say that?” by Charles Margolis. Could make the difference between winning the crown or getting first runner up, and I know which one I would want!

JJ: What is the craziest thing you have done to your body to make yourself look better for a pageant?

LG: When I was much younger and getting ready for a national pageant, stimulants were very in for getting into the best shape. I openly admit that I used ephedra and worked out like a nut to get my perfect body. I can absolutely without a doubt say that it was the stupidest thing I have ever done. I lost almost 70 lbs to compete this year and I did it the correct way with the help of a diet specialist and great trainers!

SC: I don’t think I have done anything “crazy” to make myself pageant ready! Before I went to Mrs. America in 2010, I prepared a little differently than the typical beauty queen, though. I had a few weeks to prepare for the National competition after winning my state title. My four children were out of school and we were hanging at the beach! I did sit ups, dips and push-ups on benches, pull ups on the rafters in my garage and ran in my small beach community with my kids on their bikes. I felt like Rocky! Although, I did not drink raw eggs! It was a very special time for all of us.

JJ: How do you juggle being a mom, a wife, and a pageant contestant?

LG: It is all about setting priorities and sticking to them. My family always comes first! We as a family set schedules and try to stick to them the best we can. Between work, sports, homework, training, and events it becomes hectic. I do have the best support system at home and amongst family and friends, which makes it easier as well. But being a contestant in the Mrs. category we try to make everything a family affair.

SC: I’m not going to lie… it’s difficult at times to juggle all the responsibilities of being a wife and mother as well as performing my “duties” as a title holder. I went into pageantry to show my family that I was capable of doing other things than cooking and cleaning and that when I tell them that they can be whomever they want, I mean it. If they were not able to be involved in this journey with me, then I wouldn’t do it.

JJ: What do your husband and kids think of the pageant world?

LG: They are extremely supportive of my participation in pageants especially since it is so competitive. My kids tell me they love to see their mommy on stage and always want me to win. They really have no set opinion on pageantry since they are so young.

SC: My husband is not a “pageant husband”. He loves and supports me in whatever I choose to do, but he is a very private person and doesn’t quite understand why I would put myself “out there” like that. I usually bring my daughters with me to my events. They love it! It’s fun to share this with them and I pride myself on being a good role model for my girls and my sons!

JJ: Beauty pageants for children has become a huge industry. Do you support pushing kids into this life at such a young age? What age is too young?

LG: I personally do not follow or wish for my kids to participate in children’s pageants. Although I do not look down on anyone who has their children participate, I believe the child needs to be old enough to truly understand that what you do to prepare and how you look to participate is only accessorizing. The true importance is who you really are and hope that shines through.

SC: My girls will dress up in my crowns and sashes, as well as my shoes, and play pageant! But they have never asked to be in a real one! Everyone is so different in how we raise our children. I can’t say one way is better than another. I just hope and pray that the women who put their small children into pageantry are in it for the right reasons and are able to create great memories for their daughters (and sons!).

JJ: There are over 70 million married women in America – by participating in these pageants, what message do you want to convey to all these women?

LG: That participating is winning. That whether you win or not, you learn a great deal about yourself because pageantry truly makes you take a good look at your soul. It forces you beyond your comfort zone, makes you set new goals and teaches you more than how to work a stage. And most women will admit that they gain very meaningful friendships throughout the process because it’s simply fun!

SC: 70 million married women? Wow. No pressure, right? Pageantry to me has always been personal. I didn’t enter, initially, to further my platform or set a personal physical goal. It was my journey, one I shared with my family. My reasons were personal and my accomplishments intimately cherished. I hope to lead by example and be a role model not for just married women but everyone! I am proud of the titles I won, but it’s the titles I chose (wife, mother) that mean everything to me.

JJ: Do you think mainstream media accurately portrays the beauty pageant world? What stereotypes are there that you wish to correct?

LG: I think mainstream media accurately portrays a very small part of pageantry which is usually just the ugly side of pageantry. It’s the catty, not so bright, superficial crown chasers that they glorify. Hey, that is what unfortunately gets everyone’s attention, right? But a majority of pageant women are very bright, well spoken, accomplished and dedicated to the cause type of women.

SC: It saddens me to see how mainstream media portrays the pageant world! If you would like to really see what they are like and what they truly represent… participate in one! You will meet incredible women from all walks of life. Most are accomplished, articulate and amazing. Granted, there are a few systems and women who give pageantry a bad name but every industry or career or sport/hobby has them! Media typically portrays pageantry as superficial and the contestants dumb and overly interested in world peace. Not for nothin’ but aren’t we all?! (Interested in world peace, that is). They (judges/directors) are looking for the whole package. As I say, it’s what lies beneath the sash and crown (Mind and heart) that truly matters!

JJ: Who are your favorite celebrities?

LG: I am a big fan of Cameron Diaz, Mariska Hargitay, Jennifer Aniston, Carrie Underwood, Billy Crystal, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Adam Levine, Rihanna… I could keep going!!!

SC: Favorite celebrities? Hmmm….that’s a tough one. I don’t get to watch much TV or see movies that I would actually be interested in! My home TV is controlled by children! Selena Gomez is adorable! Ha! However, I like Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Drew Barrymore, Hugh Jackman, Melissa McCarthy, Pink, of course Andy Cohen, Sandy Bullock and I would love to work with celebrity photog Annie Leibovitz! There are so many more!

JJ: What are your favorite reality shows to watch? Who are your favorite reality stars to follow?

LG: Of course we watch all the Housewives shows and we love Million Dollar Listing: New York!! I have a particular liking for Luis, Shannon, Kyle, Vicky and Tamra! And I am going to totally miss Lisa Vanderpump on RHOBH but so glad she has her own show. Also LOVE The People’s Couch!

SC: My favorite reality shows to watch include the Real Housewives, of course, Million Dollar Listing: New York and Millionaire Matchmaker! I love all the Bravolebrities!

Leha Guilmette

JJ: How important is family in your life? What role does family play when competing in these pageants?

LG: Family is a huge part of my life and always comes first! I come from a large family and married into a large family. We surround ourselves with tradition and make sure that we always do things together. My family has always been supportive with my participation in pageants and has helped out in any way possible to make sure I am ready to compete. In a sense, I compete for them as well as myself!

JJ: What are some family activities you enjoy?

LG: We love camping, hiking and movie nights. Most of all we love the time we get to spend at the barn with the horses.

JJ: We heard that you’re a full-time account manager and recruiter – what is more stressful, your full-time job or beauty pageants?

LG: Hands down, my job!! I feel that with pageantry the major part of the stress I undertake is put there by myself but with my job, it comes from all angles. From my boss, to my coworkers, to the client and the people I represent, I need to make it a win-win and a fit for all of them and still make a living. It’s a lot of balancing and wanting to please everyone but at the end of the day (which is a long one) it’s still a sales job! We are a two income family and work hard for what we have!

JJ: What charities are you involved with?

LG: I am involved with so many but my true passion for charitable giving is to Path International and some of its local centers. Path International is a foundation that supports therapeutic riding on horseback for those with both mental and physical limitations or disabilities. Most recently they have also launched programs for returning veterans.

JJ: Do you have any tricks up your sleeve to try and win the Mrs. America crown next?

LG: Well unfortunately my time at Mrs. America has passed but I am so proud of how far I came and my accomplishments while I was there!

JJ: What was the hardest part about achieving your weight loss and what advice do you have for women out there struggling with it?

LG: The hardest part was portion control and not stress eating. I LOVE food! Also being on the road a lot does not help. I learned that it is a lifestyle that takes some planning. It does not happen overnight and it took me about a year and a half. I will say that it is much easier when you have a buddy or trainer that keeps you motivated and accountable. And you have to make the workouts fun. In the end you learn what and when to eat (yes and still enjoy sweets and wine) as well as how to take it off when you go a little overboard. Do NOT set a size 4 as a goal as small goals work better. When I look back at it, I did not do anything too crazy to get myself into shape. I just followed my nutritional plan, hit the gym 3 days a week and always fit family walks into our schedule!

Shelley Carbone

JJ: Congrats on being crowned Mrs. America a few years ago. Can you tell us how you first got into beauty pageants?

SC: Thank you for your words of congratulations! I have only competed in a few pageants, but to sum it up in a few words… my mother made me do them! Ha! She was always the catalyst, but I ultimately decided to compete at Mrs. Connecticut America for very personal and real reasons. I also love to set goals for myself and I am not afraid of a challenge!

JJ: Were you upset at your mother at all for secretly registering you in a beauty pageant?

SC: When I realized that my mother registered me to compete in Mrs. Connecticut America without my knowledge or consent, I felt embarrassed! I had to call the director and admit what had happened. Needless to say, we know how that phone call went!

JJ: Do either of your daughters want to go into beauty pageants? Would you let them? Do you imagine yourself being a stage mother?

SC: As I have said before, my daughters have not showed interest in competing in pageants. If they did however, I think I would have to make sure they wanted to go in to them for the right reasons. I would have to do a little homework! I would do anything for my kids if I feel they would positively benefit from the experience, but a stage mom? I’m not so sure I’d be a good one.

JJ: Outside of beauty pageants, what are your other passions in life?

SC: My passion is health and wellness. It’s something that I take very seriously. My children have been raised with me asking and raising questions about the kinds of foods we eat and chemicals we expose ourselves to. Health and wellness go far beyond just diet and exercise. It includes our emotional and spiritual lives as well. My children read their own food labels and, I hope, understand why we avoid eating certain things. Don’t get me wrong… my kids are not deprived and have had many opportunities to have “junk”. I just recently have started joining forces with the American Heart Association. I was introduced to them through the Mrs. International system and I think it’s a great fit! I love anything that promotes taking action in our lives to live healthy and strong. Preventative medicine is the key! It also helps that I was a nurse in my former life (before kids!).

JJ: We heard that you’re currently working on two books – Can you tell us a little bit about those?

SC: Yes! I am currently working on a couple of books! I just need to be able to find the time to finish them! One of them is entitled “Please Stop Calling Me Ma’am – Tales of An Aging [Angry] Beauty Queen!” It is a book about trying to overcome, or at least learn to laugh at, the challenges women face as our bodies (and our perspectives) begin to change as we age.

Make sure to tune in to Game of Crowns on Sunday, July 13 at 9/8c on Bravo!

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Photos: Bravo
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