SOUTH BRUNSWICK, NJ – With her sash in place, Mrs. Middlesex County, Donna DePinto, spent the day Friday visiting businesses in North and South Brunswick, Franklin Township, and Edison as she enters the homestretch of this year’s Mrs. New Jersey competition.
A wife, mother, and the owner of D’Bella By Donna Salon in Kendall Park, DePinto and her publicist Antonia Kulberda hit Route 1 and Route 27, stopping in at a variety of businesses to say “hello,” and promote the local Hugs For Brady children’s cancer charity she chose to represent.
“My thoughts about being Mrs. New Jersey and absolutely representing Middlesex County, has challenged me to the next journey I’ll be walking in life,” DePinto, 52, said during her first photo shoot for the competition. “To inspire young minds to know that when you dream, your dreams can become a reality.”
An alumnus of South Brunswick High School, and former model, DePinto spent the last 18 years nurturing her salon in the township as well as showing leadership and community service through events at her business for a variety of organizations.
In addition to supporting Hugs For Brady, she recently hosted the Desi Girls, a group that also contributes to different charities, in its latest effort, Wigs 4 Kids.
That charity takes locks of hair from donors to weave wigs for those battling illnesses and losing their natural hair.
A group of 15 women from that group went to the salon in March to donate 10-inches of hair to the cause.
DePinto and her staff at the salon did the honors, cutting the hair, and then giving the ladies new styles with shorter looks.
She says it is all part of being involved with her community, making life better for everyone she serves.
Her mantra was obvious as she visited several businesses Thursday, from diners to other salons, to boutiques to car dealerships.
Wherever she went, she was welcomed like an old friend, and shared smiles with both the staff and patrons of the establishments.
Despite modeling in New York City earlier in her life, DePinto said she never participated in a pageant before, and it was her young daughter, Ava, 9, that led her into this competition.
As DePinto thought about entering the pageant, she had doubts and asked both her husband, Richard, and her daughter.
“To think I would be going back into modeling again, absolutely not,” she said. “I’m (now) here to make other women feel beautiful and important in their lives.”
Ava, who competes regularly in trampoline around the nation with an eye to competing in the 2024 Olympics, asked her mom if she felt it wouldn’t be worth competing if she didn’t win a competition.
That was DePinto’s decisive moment.
With that revelation, she asked Ava for her help to compete in the pageant.
“(Ava) said ‘yes mom, I will,’” she said. “(Ava) picked out my formal dress and my swimwear. She knows this is going to make me happy.”
Even though there are still butterflies in her stomach regarding the current competition, where she will face 16 other women in the finals on May 21 at the Yvonne Theater at Rider University in Lawrenceville, DePinto said she is ready to dive back in like she did at 22.
“I love doing it all over again,” she said. “At 52, I’ll do it again.”
She is especially happy representing her hometown and county in the competition, a place she is very loyal to.
“I want to show everyone the responsibilities that I have and still be able to mentor a lot of people to join hands and walk together with me through this journey,” she said. “It is a big responsibility and a big importance in my life right now to know that I have to guide a lot of people that are going to follow me through this journey and that it is the right direction.”
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