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Piper O'Neill is Mrs. Australia, will compete for world title

In a few weeks, Piper O’Neill may hold the whole world in her hands.

No worries — she already holds the hopes of a nation, a continent and two little children.

A 2001 graduate of Gresham High School, O’Neill also attended West Gresham Grade School as well as Dexter McCarty Middle School.

The daughter of an American mother, Gresham resident Susan O’Neill, and an Australian father, Anthony O’Neill, Piper is a dual citizen of her parents’ homelands and on Dec. 23 was named Mrs. Australia. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - ONeill was about to deliver her second child when she learned she had been chosen to be Mrs. Australia out of a field of about 200 contestants.

She’ll compete for the title of Mrs. International July 24-25 in Jacksonville, Fla.

O’Neill won the title when she was something most pageant winners are not — pregnant. Thirty-seven weeks pregnant to be exact.

Due to a change of directors, the Mrs. Australia pageant last winter did not have a stage portion. So O’Neill won, in part, by answering a series of questions, without having to walk before judges, who normally also judge the contestants on their choice of evening gown and sportswear.

“I didn’t have to go on stage or find an evening gown that was maternity,” she says with a chuckle during a phone interview from Sydney, noting she gave birth to her son, Taylor, on Jan. 23. She also has a daughter, Elsie, who turns 2 on Aug. 5.

Not that she’s afraid of showing herself in public — O’Neill has been a model since joining a agency in Oregon at the age of 3. She continued her modeling career after leaving Mt. Hood Community College and going to Sydney to study natural therapies, when she was 21.

While there, she met her future husband, Jordan Green, who works as a financial adviser in Sydney.

Meanwhile, O’Neill has made a name for herself in Australia, where she’s worked as a dancer, model and TV presenter. She can be seen regularly, for example, modeling on TVSN, Australia’s home shopping network.

“I think I’ve always been drawn to the arts,” she says of her comfort in the spotlight, adding modeling offers her opportunities to explore a world outside motherhood. “It’s nice to be able to play dress up now and then.”

Body issues

O’Neill says one of her goals as Mrs. Australia is to help other women deal with body issues, especially those that come with pregnancy. She notes she gained 60 pounds when she was pregnant her first time.

“It was a bit of a shock,” she says. However, following her daughter’s birth, “a lot of the weight did come off naturally. I would eat as healthy as I could — not to mention running after a little child helps.”CONTRIBUTED PHOTO - This photo shows Piper ONeill, now Mrs. Australia, when she graduated Gresham High School in 2001.

She says as a model, she has to be conscious of her looks, but also has learned to let go of negative feelings.

“It’s not like I was obsessed with it, but I was a little uncomfortable the first time around,” she says.

Following her second pregnancy, she says she’s just fine with the way becoming a mother changes her body and she wants to help women worldwide come to see their postpartum figures as something to be cherished.

“I think women need to come to terms with loving their bodies the way they are.”

On that note, she says she represents the organization Look Good ... Feel Better, which helps folks with appearance related issues that occur with cancer treatment.

Women, men and teens participate in practical workshops that cover skincare, makeup and head covering in more than 180 hospitals throughout Australia, she says.

O’Neill has worked with other charitable groups, and even volunteered at Zarephath Ministries serving food to the homeless in Gresham when she lived here.

She is working on developing a TV series that highlights charities and is aiming for the pilot to be released to networks this June.

“I am passionate about inspiring and encouraging improvement in others and take every opportunity to work with organizations to help spread their message,” she says. For example, she says, she’s a global ambassador for Mums on Mission, a Sydney based charity that works with a network of social services to raise money for local communities, schools, hospitals and various charities.

As she makes the rounds on TV and radio shows as Mrs. Australia, she laughs when asked if her American accent draws queries from folks wondering if she’s really an Aussie.

“I grew up on Tim Tams (an Australian chocolate cookie) and Vegemite like everyone else,” she says, adding, “We used to play cricket in our backyard as well.”

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