Illinois has never won the Mrs. America pageant. This year's contender obviously wants to change that, and she's already made history.
"I was doing it for fun, but I also, deep down inside I was like, I'm gonna see if I can win," said Zara Johnson, the newly crowned Mrs. Illinois.
Mrs. Illinois has to be a married woman, and the judges want to see the man behind the Missus. Zara and Hank Johnson are empty nesters -- with grown sons and grandchildren. Hank said there's an advantage to competing at a time in her life when the juggling of career and family has let up a bit.
At age 58, Johnson is the most mature winner in the history of the pageant, and her life experience inspired her choice in the costume category.
"My costume represents the state insect, the Monarch butterfly, and the role wives play," she said. "You're friends, then you're lovers, then you're the mother of the children,(OR HERE your a partner, you're business partners, so just depending on what life brings you, you're just constantly changing."
And since life brought Zara Johnson a battle with breast cancer two years ago, she feels compelled to use her new platform to help others see the possibilities.
"I need to let them know that there is life, that we're survivors, we're not only survivors but we're conquerors, and that we can survive this, and we can also win pageants," she said.
To vote for Zara Johnson, go to mrsamerica.com.