Patricia Schimpf is starring in her own seafaring Cinderella story. The self-professed tomboy works on a lobster boat and does landscaping work, rarely wears makeup, and has been fiercely independent since childhood. Yet, last winter, encouraged by a friend, Patricia entered a beauty pageant. She now bears the crown and title, Miss Maine for America 2021. Not one to rest on her laurels, this entrepreneur is leveraging the success to draw attention to other Maine businesses and to her own professional photography endeavor, Eye Tide Images.
Patricia, 33, owns a home in Town Hill, a neighborhood of Bar Harbor. After graduating from Ellsworth High School, Patricia started her own landscaping business.
“Just me, my truck, and my hand tools,” she said. “That was my income for a few years. I started lobstering when I was 23. This will be my eleventh year working on a boat. It’s extremely strenuous. I’ve always been pretty athletic. I was always like the dirty little tomboy with knots in her hair and untied shoelaces.”
Entering a beauty pageant was the furthest thing from Patricia’s mind until a friend involved in pageants convinced her to give it a try. She called the director for a chat and to get some information, filed the application and entry fee, and answered questions for use in her biography for the judges, “so they can kind of get an idea of what you’re all about before the actual show,” she explained.
“It was very time consuming, all of this stuff. Because I joined so late, a lot of the other girls had like six months to a year to get ready.” Patricia had two months to put together four different outfits, practice interviewing with the judges, and practice walking in heels, “which is not something that I’d ever done before.”
Getting a makeover and head shot was new, too. “Just basically everything involved in the preparation was something that was new to me,” she said. She needed an evening gown, and to get that garment tailored. She also needed a cocktail dress and a swimsuit.
“It was hard to find a swimsuit in March in Maine,” she observed. “There wasn’t a whole lot to pick from. I’d ordered some online and just nothing was quite what I liked or wanted. So, I ended up going into Walmart the day before I headed down to Portland for the pageant, ended up getting a swimsuit there, and ended up winning the swimsuit award for the whole event!”
Patricia, whose parents are divorced and who is younger than her two sisters, is close with her mother, who was thrilled with her daughter’s pageant success.
“My mom and I are very, very close. She’s loved every second of the process of this because she gets to kind of live vicariously through the whole thing. And she was just so proud and so excited,” said Patricia. While guests were limited at the pageant due to COVID-19, Patricia’s mom was there.
“She bought a whole new outfit. She was just so excited. She’s been one of my biggest supporters in everything — not like a blind supporter. She wouldn’t encourage me to do something if she didn’t actually think I was good at it.”
For example, Patricia said, it was her mother’s encouragement that led to her singing with bands. “She’s just one of the most special people. Everything that I do, I do pretty much for her.”
Being raised by a hard-working single mother inspired Patricia to “dig the well before I need the water, and establish these things so that life will be easier sooner rather than later.”
In addition to lobstering and landscaping, Patricia launched a photography business. She has a website [eyetideimages.com] and her prints hang in one gallery, soon to be two galleries. “I’m trying to set myself up for a future where I don’t have to work so hard,” she said.
These days, her time is also spent representing the Mrs. [and Miss] Maine America Pageant at various businesses and even at children’s birthday parties, if young fans invite her, as some recently did. The girls, six and eight, dressed in their own pageant finery and attended a Mother’s Day event at which guests got to meet Miss Maine and her mom.
“They’re 6 and 8. They were adorable! It was my favorite part of the whole day – they brought me an invitation to their birthday party. So, I did get dolled up, put on a dress and makeup and went to their cute little birthday party,” Patricia said. She is also slated to be a guest bartender, a guest food server, and other promotional appearances for the rest of the year.
The national competition is in Las Vegas this month. While only five women competed for Miss Maine America 2021, there will be 50 vying for the crown in Vegas. Still, Patricia said she never expected to win, and in addition to the crown, she came away with the evening gown award, swimsuit award, most photogenic, and most inspirational woman award.
“It was a totally surreal feeling. I had no expectations,” she said. “I was kind of like, ‘Well, when this is over, I’m going to be kind of relieved because this is a lot.’ It was like a full-time job. But now here we are.”
Maine fashion designer Ashley Lauren is sponsoring the state’s national Miss Maine for America and Mrs. Maine America contestants by providing outfits, Patricia said. And professional photo shoots by Susan Costa have also been done.
“I don’t know what the prize package is,” she explained. “There’s a lot of sponsorships. With this particular one, one of the sponsors gave us all modeling talent contracts, and we get different services.”
Patricia is enjoying these new opportunities because, “quite frankly, I’m getting too freaking old to work on the boat! I’ve known that lobstering was only ever just going to be a means to an end for me. I never wanted to get my license, become a captain, and get my own boat or anything. I just wanted to — I enjoy getting paid to work out, basically, because it is such a strenuous job.”
She’d still love to spend time on a boat, but as a photographer rather than crew.
“I love that aspect of it,” said Patricia. In addition to sunrises, sunsets, and creatures of the sea, she said, “I get such joy out of giving people good photos of themselves.” She’s done several portrait sessions for friends and family as gifts, as well as capturing other crew on the working waterfront.
Having to be glammed up all the time is stressful for this tomboy, but she’s eager to maximize her opportunities.
“I still had makeup from high school,” said Patricia. “I had not added to my makeup for years. Now, every time I go out anywhere, people are like, ‘Oh, Miss Maine,’ and they want pictures. I feel like I always have to be ready to be photographed, and was told by the pageant director that, ‘You’re representing at all times. So, when you do interviews, when you do appearances, look the part of a princess,’ basically. This isn’t my thing, but this year is going to be over so fast.”
For more information on the Miss Maine America Pageant, visit www.mrsmaine.net/page1, or search for “Mrs. Maine America Pageant” on Facebook. All photos by Patricia Schimpf, Eye Tide Images.