MENDON, N.Y. (WROC-TV) - Mary Therese Friel entered the pageant to become Miss New York without an expectations.
Yes, she started modeling for Eastman Kodak when we was 11, but in 1979 she was in college and looking beyond modeling.
“I won (Miss New York) and it's like,'Oh, OK, great, let's do it,' and I did and I won (Miss USA) and they said, you're going for Miss Universe and I did and I was 6thrunner-up, but unlike a lot of people who spend their lives chasing the crown or the title, that wasn't what I was about,” Friel said.
That said, Friel went on to tour the world several times over, rubbing shoulders with the rich and famous and even getting engaged to a Saudi Arabian prince.
But she also ended up teaching in Philadelphia and finding ways to give back.
Part of that drive came from advice Friel once received from none other than Muhammad Ali.
“All of the sudden I'm sitting across from him and said just remember one thing. You've won this title and you have cherish it, you have to honor it, you have to share and remember, service to others is the rent we pay for our room in the hereafter and I still get choked every time I remember that saying because it changed my life,” Friel said.
She went on to set up a modeling agency in her hometown, she married her husband Ken and has even coached models who are now pageant titleholders.
Asked about Miss America's recent decision to remove the swimsuit competition, Friel said, “When I heard they were taking that away, I thought that was a shame for a couple reasons, mostly what disappoints me is the pageant started off on the boardwalk in New Jersey as a swimsuit bathing beauty competition, and I'm old fashioned so I was disappointed.”
Mary Therese Friel continues her community outreach through charity work with Causewave, Lollypop Farm and other organizations.
“My father always said when you love what you do, you don't work a day in your life. So I truly feel like I'm here for a reason and God blesses me with the best people in the world,” she said.
You can hear Friel on WAYO-FM every Tuesday at noon.
She says she's also writing a book and there's a movie in the works based on her life.
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