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FRAMINGHAM – In 2022, Framingham resident Cynthia MacLean was the reigning Mrs. Massachusetts. 

Now, she is Mrs. New England Continental 2023.

She was crowned Mrs. new England in October 2022.

“As Mrs. New England I represent the strength, resilience and compassion of every single married woman and mom who suffered a terrible loss….and turned her pain into power. I represent the women who didn’t just sit on their hands after a tragedy but who stood back up and said l’m going to live this life and l’m going to help other women who suffered the similar experience,” said the Framingham resident, mother, and grandmother.

“I am an advocate, benefactor, and one-on-one grief mentor for widows and suicide widows here in New England and everywhere. I travel coast to coast and internationally meeting with political leaders and organizations. I have also reached out to China and India because they have the largest population of widows in the world,” said MacLean.

She said she is ” committed to helping women whose husbands died embrace their strength and courage, to transform their grief without shame, and to live and thrive fully,” said Maclean, who lost her first husband and re-married.

Tell SOURCE readers about your pageant platform and why it is so personal for you. 

The day my life changed forever was June 18, 2015 at 8:30 in the morning. I received a phone call from my brother-in-law that changed my world. My first husband had a mental illness and took his life eight years ago in Israel. I kept his suicide a secret for seven long years not only because of the negative stigma related to being a widow but because of the misunderstandings related to mental health and suicide. I felt guilty, afraid, and embarrassed to share the details of my truth. But today, that traumatic and once shameful experience has become my life’s work; a passion and commitment shared by my husband, Charles.

With 12.8 million widows, the United States has the third largest group of widows behind China (43 million) and India (42 million). Widows, especially suicide widows, are often forgotten, disinherited, and stigmatized, and they feel depressed and isolated. 1-in-5 Americans live with a mental health condition, and every year in the United States more than 45,000 people take their own lives; many of whom leave behind loved ones. Three of them in 2022 were beauty pageant queens. During COVID, the number of suicides accelerated. and COVID became known as the fastest widow-maker in historv.

Although pageants help me raise awareness, our work is more than a pageant platform, it’s our life’s passion.

You are the first Framingham resident to have the title of Mrs Massachusetts. What does the City of Framingham mean to you? Framingham means so much to me. First, because after relocating to Framingham the support by the community was amazing! The Framingham community helped empower my participation in pageants, in community organizations like league of Women Voters Framingham, and especially our work with widows and suicide loss survivors.

As a result, I have been supported by the Framingham Mayor, Framingham Council Chair Janet Leombruno, Framingham Chief of Police, former Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker, media outlets like Framingham Source, organizations like Samaritans, Call2talk and Daniel’s Table, and local businesses like Imperial China, Royal Cleaners, MetroWest Chiropractors, and Exceptional Auto Body. Framingham was my launching pad

What is your favorite place in Framingham? Why? 

Cushing Park is my favorite place in Framingham because it once was a Military Hospital and the City converted it into a park for the residents to enjoy. So for my “me” time I love going there for meditative walks and to also practice my pageant walking

Tell SOURCE readers about a challenge in your life and how you overcame it. 

As a little girl I was always driven and ambitious. I had a zest for life and just wanted to make things happen. The dream began when my mother allowed me to enter beauty pageants and talent shows. Even though I was very talented, I also had a frustrating personal problem. That problem was stuttering. I stuttered so bad, I would have to hit my leg or stomp my foot to say a word and I know this is what was holding me back in the beauty pageants and talent shows. So one of my eldest brothers suggested I become a radio host, because I could control how I speak and no one would see it. Well I took his advice and my radio show became so successful that I ventured into producing major events, and become a political consultant as well. I became very successful and influential in Miami…but it was never on stage because of my fear that I would stutter. Somehow I overcame the stuttering and became a public speaker where I was booked to speak at events, on radio and on television. Now, I am excited to continue fulfilling my dream of speaking onstage at pageants and major events.

I am proud that: my strength and resilience is an inspiration to other women and mothers. I am also proud that my self confidence is an inspiration to little girls and young women.

What book are you reading right now? “How to Eat” by Thich Nhât Hanh & Jason DeAntonis. This book is helping me enhance my relationship with food.

What is on your playlist (musical)? My playlist is very inclusive lol you will hear Beethoven, Prince, Jay Z, Michael Jackson, Teena Marie, and Lil Kim.

Some individuals view pageants as antiquated and misogynistic. Why is it important to you to compete and own the title?

In today’s world pageant are very relevant. Pageantry is a really a sport which promotes personal development for women in the areas fitness, public speaking, interview, poise, and volunteerism. Pageantry has paved the way for amazing careers for women like Oprah Winfrey, Martha Stewart, and Diane Sawyer. Pageants have also helped  younger women receive thousands of dollars in scholarships to further their college education, as well as helping married women bring awareness to the causes they are passionate about.

Pageants are important to me for these reasons, as well as the opportunity to network and make friends with like-minded accomplished women.

Every day it is important that I: take 30 minutes for myself everyday to either pray, meditate, write in my journal, or take a nap. I believe it is important for women to take time to recharge. We do so much as wives, mothers, professionals, and in our community. I also workout to maintain my health and fitness goals. Another activity I do is make sure to connect with at least one woman. Whether on social media or in the community I want to engage with women who are experiencing what I did when I was a widow.

I want to accomplish in 2023: hosting more family gatherings. My mother will be 87 in June so I want her to experience all of us being together as often as possible.

My life is complete because I have a supportive husband, because of our children and grandchildren, and because I am able to help women who experience being a widow I lost their husband to suicide.

My goal for the next 5 years is to: expand my organization Widow to Windows into other Countries all around the World and address the global issues of the widow population. Having a representative in each Country will be ideal.

In 10 years I see myself: speaking at the UN, and also traveling around the world advocating for widows and suicide widows, and working with them so they can continue living.

By editor

Susan Petroni is the former editor for SOURCE. She is the founder of the former news site, which as of May 1, 2023, is now a self-publishing community bulletin board. The website no longer has a journalist but a webmaster.