This month Best Self magazine conducted a feature story on my time as Mrs. Georgia America. Pick up a copy today! I am also featured in Vein Innovation's full-page ad!
Here is the article from the website. I tried to paste everything below, but I could not get the images to come through. Go to the website for a much better version!
Photo courtesy of Richie Arpino
My Best Self: LaLona Hughes Richards
Mrs. Georgia-America 2010 talks about her full life
When it comes to multi-tasking, LaLona Hughes Richards is a pro. From taking care of her family to being a literary consultant to teachers and administrators, she is tireless in her efforts to better the community and herself. LaLona speaks about her full life as a mother, fitness instructor, educator and so much more.
What do you see as the keys to being your “best self?”
I am inspired to be my personal best at all times, knowing that I am a constant role model – whether it be positive or negative – to my young boys. I am inspired to teach them lessons of service, compassion, healthy ambition, and self-discipline with each decision I make.
What inspired you to get involved with the Mrs. Georgia-America pageant?
I believe there are two things that can drastically improve a person’s quality of life: education and fitness. I have a strong background in each of these areas and have long desired to use my experiences to make a more wide-spread impact on my community, state, and nation. However, I did not have the means or opportunities to do so. I knew that if I was crowned Mrs. Georgia-America, doors would open that would allow me to pursue these platforms in a much more dynamic and impactful way.
What were some of the responsibilities you had as Mrs. Georgia-America?
Knowing that I would only have a short period of time to accomplish a lifetime’s worth of goals, I packed my calendar! I have spoken to the National Guard’s Youth Challenge Program, escorted athletes in the Georgia Special Olympics, read to the elderly, attended benefits, spoken to women’s groups, participated in parades and store grand openings, and tried to never say no when a need was identified.
In addition to service opportunities, being Mrs. Georgia-America has been a catalyst for my career. I incorporated my personal charity, Frankie’s First, which brings on-reading-level books into the homes of students in need. I was trained for Mrs. Georgia-America by IQ Fitness, where I was later hired as a trainer. I was hired as the spokes model for Vein Innovations, Georgia's leading expert on varicose veins and spider veins. I was trained for Mrs. America by IQ Fitness, where I was later hired as a trainer. I have also enjoyed modeling opportunities from multiple companies including Mollye Jewlery, Jana Kos Clothing and Vibrance: A Hair Studio.
How long have you been a personal trainer and what made you want to become one?
Overweight and determined to change it, I dedicated myself to physical fitness at the age of 11. It was then that I began heavily researching nutrition, muscular training, and cardiovascular conditioning. Although not a formal trainer until two years ago, I have been designing nutrition and exercise plans for friends, family, and myself for over twenty years. Reaching my optimal level of physical fitness has changed my life; I want to provide every person in the Atlanta area the opportunity to know what that feels like!
How do you juggle being a personal trainer, model, wife and mother?
I have a very calculated schedule! I work as a personal trainer each morning from 5-8 a.m. Three to four times a month, I spend the day conducting professional development workshops on components of literacy and differentiation for teachers and administrators. On days that I am not doing that, I schedule any necessary meetings; one of those includes teaching (my son) Brendan’s preschool class once a month. (My husband) Dan and I plan date nights as often as possible. Despite the busy lifestyle, we pray as a family every morning and every night, and Dan and I make an effort each night to discuss that day’s highs and lows. We also reserve Sundays exclusively for church and family, and try to always plan a Saturday family activity. It works because I plan for it; I don’t think it would work any other way.
What do you consider some of your most memorable accomplishments?
The day I received a letter stating that Frankie’s First had been incorporated was a day I will never forget. I have received a tremendous outpouring of support from the community with book drives, and I am eager to increase my volunteer base and get more and more books into the homes of students in need. More than anything, I hope that I have accomplished a sense of pride and work ethic within my family. Although my boys might be too young to understand it now, I hope my pictures, journals, media clips, etc. will tell them a story of their mom’s dedication to making a positive impact.
Tell us about Frankie’s First and how the idea came about.
During the first week of my first year teaching, (a student) Frankie Ann asked me to walk her home from school. She took me into her tiny bedroom, and next to her bed was a huge stack of Scholastic book order forms. I asked her why she had saved them, and she responded that her grandmother could not afford to buy her books but she wanted to learn to read. I taught Frankie Ann for two years and was constantly inspired by her desire to learn despite all the obstacles she faced. It was due to Frankie Ann and the other amazing students in that first-ever class of mine that I decided to devote my adult life to providing high-quality education to students in low-income circumstances.
What inspires you in your daily life?
My faith and my family inspire me. I start my days at 4:30 a.m. and end them around 11 p.m.; however, despite how incredibly busy I may be there is one agenda item that I can never afford to postpone or cancel: my daily prayer and scripture study. I know every good thing comes from our Heavenly Father, and I want to honor Him in all that I do.
What is the best piece of advice you could give someone in terms of doing it all?
Prioritize. If you put the right things first, the other things will fall into place. It is only when I have lost sight of this that things have gone awry. I prioritize time for my responsibilities at church (I teach an adult Sunday school class) and for my family first. I then divide what is left among the other opportunities and responsibilities that await me. Sometimes that means I cannot do it all, and that is okay. I have learned to say no.
If you would like to donate to or volunteer with Frankie’s First, train with LaLona at IQ Fitness, or schedule an education workshop at your school, please contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .