Mrs. Virginia? That's Dr. Virginia to you!

Let's be honest. Although beauty pageant judges and spectators expect physical perfection from their contestants, not many people assume that brains lie behind the flawless faces. This year's Mrs. Virginia, however, seems to be proving the skeptics wrong.

Thirty-three-year-old Charlottesville resident Olga Carpenter that's Dr. Olga Carpenter–- is not only brainy, she's accomplished. She immigrated to the United States from Russia armed with advance degrees in veterinary science and bio-chemistry. She's also the mother of two children, ages two and three. As if that weren't enough, on June 4 she competed in and won the Mrs. Virginia pageant in Roanoke, despite never having had formal training.

"I was a dancer when I was much younger, but that's it," she says. "I really don't have a lot of stage experience."

But that's not stopping her from going after the next title: Mrs. USA 2005. Carpenter will fly to Las Vegas July 23 to compete for the crown July 28.

"I'm excited to represent Virginia in the nationwide pageant because I consider the state my new home," she says. "When I first came to the States, I lived in New York, but I've lived in Charlottesville for six years, and we're raising our kids here."

Carpenter believes her father has had some bearing on the course she's taken in life.

"When I was younger, I wanted to become an actress, but both of my parents were doctors, and my father wanted me to be a doctor," she says. "So we made a deal. I'd be a doctor but look like an actress."

Carpenter says her physical appearance has always been important to her, even when it became difficult as she aged.

"Once you're married and you have kids, it gets really hard," she says. "Younger women are all beautiful, but when you start having kids, it's not so easy keeping up with it. You have to have a rigorous exercise routine and a really healthy lifestyle."

And connections.

Carpenter called on Louis Philippe de Montpensier, makeup artist for In Style magazine, to advise her on wardrobe, hair, and makeup. After she won Mrs. Virginia, Garry Viar, state director of the pageant, began training her for Mrs. USA.

"Both [Montpensier and Viar] have helped out a huge amount," she says. "There's so much to think about– photographs, interviews, hair."

But according to Viar, who has been training competitors for the past 20 years, "What sets [Carpenter] apart is all natural. She has a flair, a certain presence you don't forget. The judges in Vegas certainly won't."


Olga Carpenter