Ever since she was a young girl, Woodbury resident Gloria Parnell has had a love of modeling and a love of pageants.

"I love the fact that pageants celebrate the beauty, strength and intelligence of women," Parnell said. "I just have a lifelong love of pageantry."

Parnell may have an even stronger love now that she has been named the 2013 Mrs. Minnesota United States.

"It was a very exciting, kind of a surreal experience," she said. "Everything is kind of sinking in."

Parnell will represent Minnesota in July when she competes in the Mrs. United States pageant in Las Vegas.

Contestants will be competing for the title of Mrs. United States, $3,000 cash and an assortment of other prizes.

The Mrs. United States pageant, started in 1986, pays tribute to married women throughout the United States and territories for their strength, beauty, intelligence and resilience.

Parnell, 33, said she decided to participate in the Mrs. Minnesota, and then the Mrs. United States, pageants because she is drawn to a variety of aspects of the events.

"The fact that they embrace the idea that, the role of wife, mother and career woman does not prevent a woman from community involvement or from maintaining health, beauty, and mind," she said.

A mother and model

Parnell, who lives in Woodbury with her husband and three children, works as a model and actress for her day job.

Parnell said she first started modeling and acting at a young age.

"It just came naturally as a child," she said. "I just love seeing the finished product."

Some of the businesses that Parnell has worked with include Target, Best Buy and Proctor and Gamble.

Parnell has also seen the other side of modeling and acting since all three of her children are involved in the industry as well.

"It's something that they enjoy doing," she said. "It's a great way to break them out of their shell."

"Plus, I wanted them to share my same experience that I had as a child growing up."

Mrs. Minnesota United States

This year's Mrs. Minnesota United States pageant took a bit of a different format than in previous years in that there wasn't a "pageant," per se.

Parnell was selected to represent Minnesota by a panel of judges at the Mrs. United States headquarters in New York.

However, Parnell was still judged on the same criteria she would have been at an actual pageant - beauty, intelligence, ability to articulate and physical fitness.

Unlike other pageants, the Mrs. Minnesota event doesn't require its contestants to have a platform of any kind.

"I'm open to helping out many other causes," Parnell said. "But, I do feel that I have a special connection to children - I feel I'm a big kid at heart."

Mrs. United States

The Mrs. United States pageant will be a five-day event and include two days of competition involving a personal interview, a swimsuit competition and the evening gown competition.

"I just love the glamor of it all," Parnell said.

In order to prepare for the pageant, Parnell is working with a pageant coach.

Parnell said the aspect of the Mrs. United States pageant that she is most looking forward to is the memories she will make.

"Plus, I'm looking forward to being a great model for my children and other young people," she said. "It's really about putting my own special time stamp in history for me."