Chantea McIntyre is feeling extra special these days.
Not only is she the newly crowned Mrs. California, she also will celebrate Mother's Day on Sunday with her husband, Mike, a Fresno firefighter, and their children, Matea, 41/2, and Matthew, 20 months.
Being a mother means the world to her.
Mike McIntyre is going to prepare crab legs for his wife and other special guests at their northwest Fresno home.
Chantea McIntyre, a teacher at Yosemite Middle School in Fresno, used to practice for long hours for the talent sections in beauty pageant competitions. She played the harp and piano en route to being named Miss Fresno County in 2004 and Miss Tulare County in 2005.
But there isn't a talent portion in the Mrs. California pageant, a competition for married women. Judging is based on personal interviews, swimsuit competition and evening gown competition. Top 10 finalists also are asked an impromptu question on stage.
"People still ask, 'What is your talent?' " McIntyre says. "Now, it's being a wife and mother."
As she prepares for the Mrs. United States National Pageant July 20-25 in Las Vegas, McIntyre's platform is family.
The Mrs. United States National Pageant is designed to celebrate the achievements of married women throughout the 50 states and U.S. territories. An entrant must be married and living with her husband and be of good moral character.
The latter is important to McIntyre.
In 2004, contestants competing for Miss Fresno County weren't supposed to be married or involved in dating relationships. The then-Chantea Fleming was dating Mike McIntyre, a former player on the Fresno State men's basketball team. So she called him just "a friend" — and it bothered her to not to be completely honest.
In 2005, as a contestant for Miss Tulare County, she was engaged to McIntyre. That time, she was honest with pageant officials — and she felt much better.
With the Mrs. California/Mrs. United States competitions, she feels a sense of joy to promote being a wife and mother.
Growing up in Chino Hills in Southern California with a brother and sister who are twins, McIntyre always wanted to stand out on her own.
She worked hard at playing basketball and became a standout with the Chino High School girls' team.
She also developed a close relationship with an aunt, learning the importance of a large, extended family.
McIntyre received basketball scholarship offers from some large, Division I schools, and she decided on Fresno State under head coach Britt King.
"I wanted to be a basketball player," she remembers.
But in her freshman season, 2000-01, she suffered a stress fracture and wasn't able to play. She was in rehab for months. At the same time, her parents back home were going through a divorce.
McIntyre turned to her faith, writing on the instep of her left sneaker: "You can go only as far as you'll PUSH."
Translation: Pray Until Something Happens.
McIntyre says she made the mistake of trying to come back too early from her injury, which led to another stress fracture — and a third injury.
"I never healed," she says. "It was humbling and hard."
She played four seasons at Fresno State and graduated with a bachelor's degree in business management, but she didn't become the basketball player she wanted to be.
And that put her at a crossroad: "I had to define who I was."
Blossoming as a mom
As a girl, she also dreamed about beauty pageants — and titles.
"I once said, 'I want to be Miss America,' " she remembers.
So she pursued the pageant world.
She remembers getting a little ahead of herself when she applied for the Miss Fresno County competition. She didn't know her talent. She decided on the harp, took lessons and told her instructor to teach her two songs — in a hurry.
McIntyre says beauty pageants have helped her to gain self-confidence in public speaking and taught her how to command a room.
But it wasn't until she got married and had her first child, Matea, that she learned about what really matters in life.
She and her husband tried to have a second child, but weren't able to. McIntyre had three infertility surgeries, but they didn't work. So the couple adopted a boy who was in foster care, Matthew.
"Family truly is a gift," she says.
She says she puts God, family and job in that order in her life.
Both she and her husband are involved in ministry at their church, Family Community Church in northeast Fresno.
"If you don't put them in that order, it's all talk," she says.
Of his wife, Mike McIntyre says: "She loves so much — and so hard. There's never a doubt in my mind that she loves me and the kids. Her heart is pure."
Mrs. California Chantea McIntyre will compete in the Mrs. United States National Pageant from July 20 to 25 at Las Vegas. Details: www.mrsunitedstates.com.
The reporter can be reached at (559) 441-6304, email@example.com or @ronorozco_bee on Twitter.