Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Happy Holidays from the Riley Family in Tennessee!

I hope everyone is enjoying preparing for the holiday season!  David and I spent last weekend with my family in Arkansas, and we had such a wonderful time.  Sometimes we get so busy in our lives and with our obligations that we forget just how important our families are.  My family is small, but we are fiercely close and loyal to one another.  My love for them is as solid as rock.  My wish for each of you this holiday season is that you have someone in your life who you treasure, who you would fight for, and who you love unconditionally.  If you are lucky enough to have that, you are truly a fortunate person.

Merry Christmas, and God Bless you all,
Mary-Marsha Riley
Mrs. Tennessee International 2011
L to R:  My sister, Gina; my dad, Bernie; my mom, Judy; me; my husband, David
And in the front:  Ashton, our joy :)        

Monday, November 28, 2011

Christmas Challenge

I want to challenge each of you to spend time this holiday season giving something of yourself and your talents to help another person.  You will never regret a second you spending helping someone else.  Share your gratitude for the blessings you have been given.  I always keep in mind that if not for a simple twist of fate, I could have been born without the opportunities I was lucky enough to be blessed with.  This fact rings true to me every week when I tutor my ten year old friend, Devon.  He and I have been working together weekly since he was seven.  Devon faces huges challenges; none of them of his choosing.  Making him believe he can and will succeed is a big part of my life.  I feel it is my responsiblity.  And, you know what?  Spending time with such a determined, kind-hearted little guy lifts my spirits every week.  I leave my time with him feeling revived, energized, happy, and grateful. I challenge you to do the same thing in your own life.  Pay your gratitude and your blessings forward this holiday season.  You will be changed as you change the life of someone (or a dog or cat :) that needs you!  Get out there and make a difference this month! 

God Bless,
Mary-Marsha Riley
Mrs. Tennessee International 2011      
Me and my husband, David, with Devon

Saturday, November 19, 2011

My First Commercial!

This has been such an amazing year! My first job as a working model was a holiday commercial for Laurelwood Shopping Center.  It was a bit surreal to live the experience. I think it turned out great!  Click on the link below to see what you think!  And, to all my Memphis friends...consider coming to Laurelwood for your holiday shopping!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Happy Birthday Devon!

 If you know me, you know that I have been tutoring my little buddy Devon Leonard for four years now.  We started together when he was a 6 year old first grader, and yesterday my awesome fourth grader turned 10.  I am so proud of Devon.  In the last four years he has evolved from a shy and quiet little boy with no confidence into a happy, capable, confident, and fun loving little man.  He received his highest marks ever on a report card this past quarter, and he is no longer behind in his reading.  Devon is terrific.  I am determined to see him make it; despite some challenges that most of us will never have to face.  I will continue to be his biggest cheerleader.

Here are some photos of my sweet little buddy as he opened up his brand new Nintendo DS on Friday morning.  He was so incredibly happy, and his happiness touched and uplifted my heart.  If any of you are looking for a way to enrich your life, take a few hours a month and devote them to changing the life of an at risk young person.  You will be glad you did.  If you are in Memphis, contact Sarah Quintal at Streets Ministies and get started today!


Thursday, September 29, 2011

More Official Mrs. International Photos

Yay!  I was so excited to see my Mrs. International photo CD in the mail today.  Thank you to Paula Preston for working so hard during pageant week to capture our memories!
 Getting off the bus about to board the boat for the tour of Chicago!
 Me and David during the Evening Gown Competition 
 Us again...David was the perfect escort :)
 Fitness Competition
 This is my favorite Evening Gown Competition shot.
 My announcement as a Top 12 Finalist!  
 Third Runner-up!!  I was SO happy!!! :)
 Happy, happy, HAPPY! 
 Top 5 and Our Husbands
 Mrs. International 2011 Top 5
 David and me at the Cornonation Ball after the Finals of Mrs. International 
My favorite dress of the the Meet and Greet with the Judges


Monday, September 19, 2011

A Bit of Self Reflection

I am a dreamer.  I have always had high expectations for myself, and I have worked hard to reach my goals.  But, as we all know, sometimes life happens.  "Stuff" gets in the way, and sometimes that "stuff" makes us doubt who we are and what we are capable of.  I certainly have doubted myself quite a bit along the way.  I have lost my way more than once, and I have almost given up on my dreams more than once.  But, for as long as I can remember, I have believed in myself, and I have always felt that I deserve to be treated well, especially by myself.  We all deserve to be treated well, and we all deserve the opportunity to reach our potential.

Throughout this past year, I have been blessed with so many meaningful opportunities; opportunities for self growth, self reflection, and most important, I have had opportunities to create positive change for causes close to my heart.  I am lucky, and I know that.  If the whole "genie with three wishes" was a reality, one of my wishes would be that all people (and all animals) would be blessed with the same opportunities in life.  It is easy to forget in the midst of our busy lives that we are significantly blessed, and if not for a simple twist of fate, we would have been born into a completely different situation which would have required us to travel a far more difficult road.  We owe it to this world to do good; to help; to improve our little portion of this world.  That is success in my book.

Be happy and do good,
Mary-Marsha Riley           

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

More Mrs. International Photos!

Today, I received two of my photos from the official Mrs. International Pageant photographer, Paula Preston.  These photos will be featured in an upcoming issue of "Memphis Health and Fitness Magazine."  I am still so happy about my experience at Mrs. International.  I have such great memories that I will always treasure.  Every time I think about it, I smile :)
Evening Gown Winner!

Fitness Winner!

White Hall, Arkansas Pageants

Last weekend I had the privilege of being invited to judge the White Hall Pageants in White Hall, Arkansas.  My friend Jennie Huyck is the Director, and she and her husband, Will, put on a fantastic event for the people of White Hall.  They are 100% volunteers, and they singlehandedly provide girls of all ages in White Hall with the opportunity to showcase their talents and poise.  We judges were treated to amazing meals, a beautiful hotel room for the weekend, a basket of goodies (including cupcakes:), and a massage!  Congratulations to all the beautiful and talented contestants.  I had a great time, and it was a treat to have a front row seat to a fantastic show!
Pageant Director, Jennie Huyck, me, and fellow judge, Amanda Patterson, Mrs. Arkansas America 2011 

The adorable and extremely talented Chloe Ward, 2011 Junior Miss White Hall and Junior Talent Winner, and me 

Monday, August 1, 2011

Still on Cloud Nine!

One week after the finale of the 2011 Mrs. International Pageant, I am still just giddy about my experience!  The more I reflect on pageant week, the more I am humbled, inspired, and energized.  I was so fortunate to be affored the opportunity to be included in the Mrs. International Class of 2011.  I am so very thankful for memories I will sincerely treasure for a lifetime.  Please enjoy several more photos from my week!  Once I receive the official photos from the pageant photographer, I will be posting those as well.
Just before my one on one interviews with the judges 

My interview group:  Tennessee, Arkansas, California, North Dakota, and Great Plains

Me and Mrs. Arkansas, Renee Stone, before boarding the boat to tour downtown Chicago! 

David and me immediately after finals

The Fabulous Top 12

Me with my gorgeous cheering section!

Me and Cari Baker, my friend and makeup maven  

Me and my interview secret weapon, Suzy Bootz

Just after being called as 3rd Runner-up!  So happy!!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


I am still giddy about the Mrs. International Pageant last weekend!  I spent last week surrounded by 52 successful and stunning women who are truly changing this world for the better.  The week was both inspiring and humbling, and I left Chicago a better woman because of the people I encountered in this amazing pageant system.

The icing on my pageant cupcake was being selected as 3rd Runner-up to the title of Mrs. International 2011!  I was also blessed to win overall fitness and evening gown.  I feel so incredibly fortunate to have had so many amazing opportunities as Mrs. Tennessee International.  This system is life changing for the titleholders, and I will forever be honored to have held the title of Mrs. Tennessee International 2011.  Thank you to all the people who supported me and especially to those who came to Chicago to cheer me on!

I received the news today that the 2012 Mrs. Tennessee International Pageant will be held in early March of 2012 in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.  That means I will be Mrs. Tennessee International for six more months!!  I am so happy about that, and I am excited to help all the 2012 contestants prepare to compete for the 2012 title.  If you would like information on the 2012 pageant (which will change your life for the better:), you can e-mail me at  I will be more than happy to help you in any way I can.  You can also reach our new Tennessee director, Tiffany Porter, at 423-773-4660.

If you are looking for an incredible pageant experience, the International system is for you.  Mary and Mel Richardson, the national directors of the Mrs. International Pageant, put on a first class show.  We had so much fun sightseeing in Chicago (the boat tour of the city was amazing!), the rehearsals were well organized, the show was flawless, the host hotel (Doubletree North Shore) was comfortable and very accomodating (the staff was beyond kind and helpful), and the other contestants were FIRST CLASS.  Can you tell I had a great experience?!  I encourage you to consider the International system if you ever thought entering a pageant might be fun!

I will be posting photos from the 2011 Mrs. International Pageant very soon!  Thank you again to everyone who supported me on this journey!

God Bless,
Mary-Marsha Riley
Mrs. Tennessee International 2011
3rd Runner-up to Mrs. International 2011

Sunday, July 10, 2011

8 Days Until Mrs. International Week!

In just a bit more than a week, I will be packing up the Tahoe and heading to Chicago to represent Tennessee in the Mrs. International Pageant.  I am humbled by this opportunity that I have worked toward for so long.  I hope to make my husband, family, friends, and my state very proud.  This has been such an incredible year filled with opportunities and blessings I could never have imagined would have been possible.  I am truly grateful to be Mrs. Tennessee International 2011.  

Last night, my family and dear friends gathered together for my Mrs. International Send Off Party.  I am so thankful to have such an amazing support system.  The party was so much fun, and I am so happy to have been able to share the excitement of this time with the people I love who have supported me throughout this journey.  I want to especially thank my husband David and my dear friends Tina Winham, Melody Usdan, and Brandy Parrish-Wade. 
Me with Mr. Tennessee International 2011 

Me with my dear friends Melody Usdan and Tina Winham 

The yummy food table!

Streets Strut

I spent a week in June with some extremely talented, spirited, and inspiring little ladies at the Streets Ministries Summer Program in downtown Memphis.  Despite being faced with obstacles few of us will ever encounter, these girls are determined to reach their potential in this life, and I have no doubt that each of them are destined for great things.  We spent our week together discussing health, fitness, self image, peer pressure, poise, and self respect.  The week culminated in the "Streets Strut" where the girls showcased their talents, poise, and confidence on stage for their friends and Streets mentors.  It was an amazing and uplifting week.  I am so happy to have found the gem that is Streets Ministries.  The work of this organization is vital to our city, and I am honored to be able to help them reach out to the amazing children of Memphis who desperately need people to believe in them and tell them that they can in fact realize their dreams.
The girls in their tiaras after the "Streets Strut"

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Go Red Girls' Night Out Success!

On the evening of June 6, 2011, six months of hard work by myself and my fellow Go Red Executive Leadership Team culminated in a wildly successful Go Red for Women Girls' Night Out in Memphis.  The event raised more than $230,000.00 and successfully raised awareness of the dangers of heart disease and provided the attendees with education regarding how risk factors can be reduced and even eliminated.  And, everyone had tons of fun!  I am so thankful to be associated with the amazing women who were responsible for planning and executing such a first class event.
Me with my dear friend Melody Usdan who modeled with me in the Macy's Fashion Show during the event.
Me and the ladies of the 2011 Mrs. Tennessee International Table, including (bottom row 1-r) my mother in law, Connie Riley, Miss Memphis 2011 Ivy Depew, and Sherri Issacman, (top row l-r) Carly Knight, me, Leslie Issacman, Melody Usdan, and my mom, Judy Porter 

Me with my amazing dentist, Mrs. International sponsor, and a vendor at our event, Dr. Jason Botts of Botts Dental Spa

Thursday, June 2, 2011

My Life Check and Life's Simple Seven

I was back with my new friends at Fox 13's "Good Morning Memphis" on Tuesday to promote the American Heart Association's My Life Check and Life's Simple Seven.  I am the Chair of My Life Check for the AHA's Greater Southeast Affiliate.  If you haven't yet been to to assess your risk of heart disease, I strongly encourage you to do so.  My Life Check assesses the seven crucial elements relevant to heart disease:  diet, exercise, weight, smoking status, blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar.  After the assessment, you will be offered advice on how to improve upon areas of concern, including links to many websites that can help you learn how to lower your risk of heart disease and improve the quality and longevity of your life.  Don't delay!  Go to now!  Thank you to Fox 13 for your dedication to the fight against heart disease. 

Enjoy my segment below: 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Pleasure of Promoting Heart Health

I am so humbled by the opportunities I have been blessed with this year which have allowed me to amplify my voice in the fight against heart disease.  This month the article I wrote about my dad's journey to break his smoking habit and become heart healthy was published in "Memphis Health and Fitness Magazine."  I have been reading this wonderful publication for years, and I am honored to have the opportunity to spread the message that it is never too late to improve your heart health and save your life.  You can read the article by clicking on the link below.  Way to go Daddy!  I'm so proud of you.

Also, this week I was asked to become the American Heart Association's My Life Check Chairperson for the Greater Southeast Affiliate.  My Life is such a useful tool in the fight against heart disease and stroke, and I am excited to be able to reach audiences throughout the Southeastern United States, sharing my dad's story and encouraging people to take the My Life Check Assessment to determine the state of their heart health and what they can do to reduce their risk of heart disease.  I am honored to have been given this responsibility, and I am excited about my continued partership with the American Heart Association, its Go Red for Women Initiative, and My Life Check.  Please take a few minutes to visit My Life Check at the address provided below.           

Finally, due to the terrible flooding in the Mid South recently, the Memphis Area Go Red for Women Girls' Night Out, originally scheduled for May 10, 2011, has been rescheduled for June 6, 2011.  My Executive Leadership Team has raised over $230,000.00 for Go Red to date this year, and the event on June 6 is going to be incredible.  As Mrs. Tennessee International, I will have my own table at the event which I will be honored to share with my husband, mom, and eight friends.  I will also be a featured model in the Macy's Go Red Fashion Show which will take place during the event.  My team has worked hard, and we are looking quite forward to celebrating the exciting strides being made towards eradicating heart disease at our Go Red for Women Girls' Night Out on June 6!

I want to sincerely thank the Memphis Area Go Red for Women Chapter and the American Heart Association's Greater Southeast Affiliate for continuing to trust and believe in me and my passion to fight heart disease.  We have a wonderful partnership, and I look forward to working together for years to come. 

God Bless,
Mary-Marsha Riley
Mrs. Tennessee International 2011  

Positive Change Continues to Abound in Memphis

For three years now I have been deeply entrenched within Georgia Avenue Elementary which is the elementary school located in the 38126 zip code of Memphis.  This zip code is the third most impoverished zip code in the nation.  The average yearly family income in this area is less than $11,000.00 per year.  These children face challenges on a daily basis that most of us will never experience once in our lifetimes.  I have become extremely attached to these children, and I am passionate about the plight of Streets Ministries; to break the vicious cycle of poverty and let these children know that there are people that care about them and support their dreams.

President Obama's presence and speech at the Booker T. Washington High School Commencement on Monday in the 38126 zip code of Memphis was both exciting and uplifting for the city of Memphis and for the children of the 38126.  His presence shows these kids that there is another way; a better way, and that their dreams can become reality.  Thank you President Obama for believing in Memphis and for helping our at risk children realize that they can achieve success in this life.     

On May 12, 2011, my big hearted team gathered at Georgia Avenue Elementary for our fourth and final party of the year for some amazing third graders.  We had a pizza party, and the kids loved it!  My friend and team member Carly Knight, Promotions Manager for the Memphis Grizzlies, surprised the kids with Grizzlies bags filled with bobblehead dolls and replicas of the Grizzlies' home court.  The kids went wild, and why shouldn't they?  Our Grizzlies were only one game away from the NBA Western Conference Championship this year!  Go Grizz!

Devon and me; we have made a great team for the last three years.  I love this kid dearly, and I am extremely proud of the young man he has become.

On May 13, 2011, I returned to Georgia Avenue Elementary for the school's annual Field Day where I served as the resident face painter for the day!  Flowers, butterflies, rainbows, and dragons were among the most requested!  I had such a great time celebrating a great school year with these kids.  I am astonished and inspired by their strength and determination to overcome some seemingly insurmountable odds.

I am so proud of my city and our people.  Although we continue to face challenges, positive change abounds in Memphis, and that makes these very exciting times!    

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

American Heart Association Greater Southeast Affiliate Life Check Chair

Yesterday I was honored to be chosen to serve as the Chair of the American Heart Association's Greater Southeast Affiliate My Life Check. I am so excited to be so intimately involved with spreading the message of My Life Check and Life's Simple Seven throughout the Southeast. Please visit the website below to learn the state of your heart and the 7 easy steps you can take to lower your risk of heart disease.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

My Inspiration

My passion for fighting heart disease began a little more than two years ago when my dad, Bernie Porter, sufferered a heart attack. For years I had felt afraid and helpless because there was nothing I could do to get my dad to stop smoking. The heart attack did what my sister, my mom, and I could not ever achieve; it convinced my dad to stop smoking. Now, two years and two months later, my dad is smoke free and heart healthy. He has a new outlook on life, and I could not possibly be more thrilled or proud of him. His journey, and my memories of feeling helpless with regard to his health, inspired me to take up the fight against heart disease. As a spokesperson for Go Red for Women and in my career as a personal trainer, I am empowered to help people improve their health and their lives. I do this because of my dad; because of his strength and his determination to become heart healthy. He is my inspiration! Read about his journey in the article I wrote published in the May 2011 issue of "Memphis Health and Fitness Magazine." Way to go Daddy!!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Fox 13 Fitness Segment

Demonstrating exercises we can do at work on "Good Morning Memphis."
Thank you Fox 13 for promoting the heart healthy lifestyle.

I had a great time this morning live on Fox 13's "Good Morning Memphis" demonstrating exercises we can all do at the office and informing viewers about simple changes we can make in our daily routines to help achieve the 30 minutes of exercise per day recommended by the American Heart Association. Opting to take the stairs, parking further away from the front door of the office or grocery store, and walking to lunch are examples of easy ways to fit blasts of exercise into our busy schedules. 30 minutes of exercise every day will increase energy levels, lower stress, assist in weight managment, and help prevent heart disease and other illnesses. So get out, get moving, and get healthy!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Spring Into Fitness

Did you know that April is Fitness and Exercise Month? The American Heart Association is encouraging everyone to be active for at least 30 minutes every day to improve your heart health and overall fitness. I will be a featured fitness expert on Fox 13 "Good Morning Memphis" on Tuesday, April 19, 2011. I will be teaching viewers exercises that can be performed every day at the office. Tune in to learn how you can get fit on the job! I am also currently putting the finishing touches an article for "Memphis Health and Fitness" magazine detailing my dad's heart survivor story and his journey to beat his smoking addiction and become heart healthy. Way to go Daddy!!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Skirt! Magazine Article

I am so excited to be featured in the March issue of skirt! Magazine as a "Change Maker"! I am humbled to be recognized along side one of the great "Change Makers" of Memphis, Leigh Anne Tuohy, of "The Blind Side." I am so honored! Pick up your copy today!