Wednesday, May 16, 2001
N.M. 'Royalty' Happy Overseas
By Andrea Schoellkopf
Journal Staff Writer
New Mexico's former Miss USA left her runway 16 years ago and has spent much of her life living and working overseas.
Mai Shanley Fitzgerald of Alamogordo was a 21-year-old New Mexico State University education major when she was crowned Miss USA on May 17, 1984.
Husband Mark an F-15 Air Force pilot she married four months after her reign as Miss USA ended is now commander of the 493rd Unit at RAF Lakenheath, England. The family which includes daughters Tarren, 12, and Cara, 8 have spent much of the last 12 years living in Europe.
"I was raised this way," said Fitzgerald, whose Irish-immigrant father Patrick T. Shanley was a master sergeant stationed at Holloman Air Force base when she won her title. "I really enjoy it. It's really what you make of it."
While she doesn't advertise her prior "royalty," she said the tight-knit military community she's grown up in usually means someone knows about her past.
"I'm always surprised when somebody finds out," said Fitzgerald, now 38, who was among the top 10 semifinalists for Miss Universe.
During her reign as Miss USA, she met President Reagan in the Oval Office and lived for a year in New York City with Miss Universe.
She traveled to her mother's home country of Taiwan, where she and her parents were official guests of the government for the week and toured the island.
"When I won Miss USA, they were so thrilled," said Fitzgerald, the first Eurasian to win the pageant. "At the time, (the Taiwanese government) didn't endorse any pageant activity."
Fitzgerald pursued modeling after Miss USA and was recruited for the Dream Girl U.S.A. television show on ABC. She was in the top five and won $30,000 in cash and prizes. The show led to a job as a professional beauty consultant for an American company.
She now works as the United Kingdom manager for an international wine broker and coordinates chapel music programs for two local air bases, heads the base spouse's group and sings for charity.
Yet Alamogordo is still home: It's the first place that her parents bought a home, which is now occupied by sister Siobhan's military family.
"I really miss the climate there; it's about time to come back," said Fitzgerald.
If there's a former newsmaker you would like us to track down, contact Ellen Marks at 823-3842 or firstname.lastname@example.org.