by Kristen Troy; originally published in January 2021
You may know her from attending her Zumba® classes here at HAC or from the joyful presence she exudes while working out in the weight room, but that is far from all she is known for nowadays. In addition to being a Zumba® instructor, personal trainer, fitness fiend, mother to two teenage daughters, wife, and friend, Musulain Toomer (or Mus for short) has been newly named Mrs. Delaware America 2020.
Before summer 2020, Mus had never imagined competing in a pageant and had dismissed the idea anytime it was brought up. But that changed around July after a conversation with, Daphne Chaniz-Rico, a friend, fellow HAC member, and Miss Delaware America 2019. Daphne suggested that Mus take part in the 2020 Mrs. Delaware America pageant in August. Mus thanked her for thinking that highly of her and politely declined, and the conversation moved on.
Mus never considered herself a pageant girl. She worked late many days and focused her energy on spreading positivity through instructing her Zumba® classes at HAC, training clients to help them meet their goals, or spending time with friends and family. But in the days following her conversation with Daphne, Mus continued to think about the suggestion. “Why not do it?” she thought. “I’ve got nothing to lose.” After a bit more self-persuading, Mus chose to take part in the Mrs. Delaware pageant just a few weeks before the event.
Preparing for the pageant, Vincenza Carrieri-Russo, another member at HAC and former Miss Delaware USA, trained Mus. The training covered techniques for walking onstage, how to pose, and even how to place her hands while posing. There were so many minute details to think about that most people never even consider.
The pageant consists of three parts: an interview, a gown appearance, and a bikini appearance, with the interview being most crucial to each contestant’s overall score. “They want to see who you are, apart from the gowns and bathing suits,” Mus says. “What do you represent? Who is Mus from the heart?”
Throughout the pageant, Mus found herself reflecting again and again on her core philosophy: just be yourself. “As the mother of two girls, it was my goal to be true to myself. There will always be someone different, possibly better than you, but that’s irrelevant as long as you are true to yourself.” After the competition, her daughters, ages 14 and 17, said that seeing their mother up on the pageant stage made them both incredibly proud, and they were happy to say, “That’s my mom!”
When the judges called the winner and her name, Mus remembers feeling surprised and thinking, “Oh, me?” To have gone from feeling completely disinterested in pageant life to winning Mrs. Delaware America 2020 just a few weeks later has been staggering, even for her. Though Mus didn’t doubt her own ability to win, her victory still came as a welcome surprise.
From her experience in the pageant, Mus has taken to the saying, “just go for it.” She figures, “if you win, great; if you don’t, at least you learn something about yourself.”
As Mrs. Delaware, Mus has been organizing events in the community related to her platform. “I didn’t have to come up with the platform. I already had [one]. I believe in health, wellness, and fitness.” she says, “It was easy to say I live what I believe in.”
Mus has been teaching Zumba® for 11 years. She took one class at HAC and decided soon after, “this is what I need to be doing.” She got certified to be a Zumba® instructor and has been teaching classes ever since. Mus loves being able to help people. When members come to HAC feeling depressed, stressed, or generally sub-par, “they come here and just leave everything behind.” Mus boosts her class participants by setting an example of confidence; she loves to leave women and men feeling empowered, strong, and beautiful after every class. Mus recalled one of the students in her class saying ‘this was my heaven, I came and [just] danced. The energy is something you cannot fake.’ “[Members] don’t come to my class for my face,” Mus says, “they come because of the vibes of the room.” Mus’ classes are almost always packed, and that is because of the inspiring atmosphere she creates.
Mus is always aiming to further and share her knowledge of fitness, and her journey as Mrs. Delaware has helped her to do just that. “Every day I try to do something towards my goals. I try to build it into a habit.” This mentality has driven her to share her love for health and wellness by hosting free, public events that help other people find joy in being active. On October 10th, she offered a free outdoor workout event at Paper Mill Park. Following that, Mus visited Harvest Christian Fellowship for a dance session to move to music from around the world. In November, Mus got out in nature with a 5-mile hike through Brandywine Park and a 3.6-mile hike through White Clay Creek Park. As the weather gets colder and the coronavirus pandemic continues, Mus is finding herself having to get creative with future event ideas. She has been able to meet so many new people through these events and has loved getting to reach out to the community in new ways.
“I can reach more people, and I am talking to people I’ve never met. A lot of new people have come to my events,” she said. “I am just glad that I am healthy enough to be able to do all those things.”
Coming away from the pageant, Mus has a newfound respect for the contestants in pageants. Looking at pageants before competing, Mus thought the contestants were different from her. “You put them on this pedestal,” she said, like they have some inherent “star quality” that qualifies them to compete. After competing in the pageant and getting to know the other contestants, Mus has realized, “They are just regular people like you and me. The only thing that sets them apart is they decided to go and do this.”
Mus is not afraid of new experiences and is always ready for an adventure. Competing in the pageant and creating events in the community have shown that she is up for anything. She is happy to live life to the fullest and not worry about fitting into anyone else’s standards. “Do not compare yourself to anybody,” Mus said.
Mus is going to represent Delaware in the Mrs. America pageant this month. She plans to go in with the same attitude and mentality she had for the previous pageant. “I’m just going to put myself out there. I’m going full force.” If she does win the title of Mrs. America, Mus will go on to compete for the title of Mrs. Universe. “The only prerequisite to the next level is you have to get the crown.”
To anyone considering doing something new and exciting, Mus said, “Growth only happens outside your comfort zone. If there is something you want to do, and you have nothing to lose, go for it. It starts with you. Take a look at yourself in the mirror, and see how you can make a change in the world.”
Update: March 15, 2021
Due to COVID-19, the 2021 Mrs. America Pageant, originally scheduled to take place in January, will begin on March 19th. Mus will be flying down to Las Vegas at the end of this week to prepare, and she couldn’t be more excited for what’s ahead. Since December, she has not only studied on her own for the interview portion of the pageant but also continued training with Vincenza to improve her stage presence.
Social media has allowed Mus to safely stay connected with the community despite the cold weather and the ongoing pandemic. She’s used both Zoom and Instagram Live to continue offering free fitness classes throughout the winter. The bigger her following has grown, the more confidence she’s gained in herself and her ability to empower others. “I have learned that I have a fire in me that is much bigger than myself,” she says. “I have learned to be fearless and to be open to opportunities and things that I never thought that I would do. I have learned that I have the ability to inspire women of all walks of life.”
Mus has been incredibly grateful for all those offering their support throughout her pageant journey. “I would like to thank my husband for his amazing support, my two amazing daughters who continue to challenge me to be a better person, and my extended family for their support on this amazing journey. I would like to thank my coach Vincenza for coaching me for the Mrs. Delaware pageant and for the Mrs. America pageant. I would like to thank my fellow sister Queens for all of their help and support in helping me get to Nationals. I would like to thank my amazing costume designer Jose Corrigan and my friends for their support. I would like to thank all of my sponsors, the Hockessin Athletic Club, Bliss Nails, and Living Well Pharmacy.”
You can stay up to date with Mus as she heads into her national competition by following her Instagram, @mrsdelawareamerica2020