Felicia McDaneld doesn’t let her dress size define her.
“I think everybody has a misconception that all of us who are overweight hate ourselves and want to die,” says the Tacoma woman, who wears a size 20. “Just because you’re bigger doesn’t mean you’re not active.”
McDaneld will represent the state of Washington in the Mrs. Plus America competition, which opens July 7 in Monroe, La. There, women will compete in three divisions: Mrs., Miss and Ms. Plus America.
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Earlier this year, McDaneld was crowned Mrs. Washington Plus America 2009.
She talked with The News Tribune about the contest and about her life as a dynamic, active woman.
How did you learn about the contest?
I was searching the Internet looking for plus-sized belly dancing costumes and an ad came up.
You’re a belly dancer?
I belly dance every week. I take lessons at Fircrest Community Center.
I’ve been dancing about five years.
I always thought it was so beautiful. I love to dance, but most dancers you see are little tiny twigs. I thought, “I’m not going to be a ballerina.”
Belly dancing keeps you so in tune with your body and how it moves.
Are you going to belly dance at the Mrs. Plus America competition?
Yes. I’m wearing yellow, red and orange, so it will look like I’m on fire when I dance.
What else do you do to keep active?
My husband, Rich, and I go to the YMCA on Pearl Street. My zumba teacher is in charge of the Strong Kids Campaign there, which supports programs for kids and families. (Advocating for the Strong Kids campaign is part of McDaneld’s platform for the national Mrs. Plus America competition.)
Did you grow up in Tacoma? Where did you go to school?
I moved around a lot, but I graduated from Wilson High School in Tacoma in 1989. I have an associate of arts degree in speech and drama and a bachelor of arts degree in mass communications.
Do you come from a family of large people?
My mother is teeny tiny. I always took after my father’s side of the family, where the women are as big around as they are tall.
I have always been chubby, but I never felt that it held me back. I never felt it kept me from living my life.
Do you think society places too high a premium on being thin?
I feel so sorry for actors and actresses. The minute they’re bigger than a size zero, they get jumped on. I’m a ticket agent at the airport, and six of my co-workers have had gastric bypass surgery. They have had (postsurgical) problems. One ended up in the hospital. Why put yourself through that?
It’s great to have a positive outlook on size. But what about weight-related health concerns? Do you have any?
I get my physical every year. Until my doctor tells me I’m in a bad spot, I’m going to keep on being active, eating my greens and being me.
Any other words of advice for women struggling with weight issues?
I don’t want to spend my life thinking about what I’m missing out on. I’m comfortable in this skin. I love me, my husband loves me.
I want my life to be about who I interact with and whose life I touch, not what I eat.
For people who have never been big?
Don’t pity us. We have good lives, good men, good jobs. We’re smart and we’re sexy.
Debbie Cafazzo: 253-597-8635