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Profile: Emily Stark, former Mrs. Colorado and parent of successfully separated conjoined twins

The successful separation of her conjoined twins embodies Emily Stark’s philosophy of life today: positive thinking can make a difference; the power of many can accomplish wonderful things; and quality of life is what you make of it.

When in 2001 Emily Stark found out 4 ½ months along in her pregnancy that she was carrying conjoined twins, she asked the doctor, “What’s the worst-case scenario?” She believed that once she knew, she could cope with anything. “I asked what their quality of life would be, and the doctor said it would be what we made of it,” she says today. “From that point on, I knew I would be ok. I’m the type of person that if I know I can have some control over a situation, I’ll be fine. When I have the ability to exert some control over something, my focus can then begin to expand.” Today, after three preparatory surgeries beginning when the twins were 7 months old, and then the final 16 ½ hour surgery when they were 15 months old, which involved 56 medical personnel including 20 doctors and their egos, the twins are fine. “It’s as if it never happened,” says Stark.

Stark is originally from Hawaii and came to Fort Collins, Colorado, to attend the University of Northern Colorado where she earned her degree in biology and chemistry. She then worked for the Department of Health for two years and then for the National Asthma research center while deciding whether to pursue medical school. “What I discovered was that I couldn’t stand body fluids,” she laughs. She then worked as a paralegal for the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center for several years. Next up was a sting with the Division of Administrative Law for the State of Colorado, where she became pregnant with her twins.

Her interest in pageants was sparked when she was in college and won the Miss Colorado pageant. “I looked at it as an opportunity to do so many supportive community events—I did 140 appearances that year,” she says. “It was a chance to do so much for the state.” She knew when she met her husband, James, that he was the right guy: “He would spend hours evening gown shopping with me for the pageant,” she laughs. “How many men would do that?”

It was soon after her twins were separated that Stark decided to make a run for Mrs. Colorado in 2002. “I thought breast feeding would take the weight off, but it didn’t!” she says. She began working out in October and preparing for the pageant, which was set for May.

Today, in between follow-up doctor’s appointments for the twins and numerous other obligations, she has developed a consultant business helping other pageant competitors hone their pageant skills such as interview elements and wardrobe choices. One of her convictions is that participants should go on a “self-journey” so that they truly know themselves before they are asked questions—it is the only way to be prepared, she notes. She is also launching a public speaking business that she will expand when the twins enter school (her website will be active late in January 2006 at http://www.emilystark.com/.)

She expects to speak mainly to mothers’ groups and other women’s groups interested in hearing about the importance of making connections in one another’s lives.

What made Stark so successful in her professional life as a competitor? “I sought out professionals such as walking coaches, nutritionists, and others who could help me accomplish what I wanted to do for Colorado. I believe you don’t go through life with things always being easy; you’ll be challenged. But I also believe that if I know myself, I can share myself—I’m kind of like an open book. And on that basis, I can help others,apostrophe she says.