By Kristen Miller
DASSEL, MN - Being crowned Miss Minnesota is a dream for 2008 Dassel-Cokato graduate Natalie Davis, who was recently named second runner-up to Miss Minnesota June 20.
With this being her fifth pageant competition, Davis is on a roll and isn’t about to give up now, she said.
Davis got a taste of what it would be like to be Miss Minnesota in 2006, when she was named Miss Minnesota’s Outstanding Teen.
She then went on to compete nationally, where she won the Outstanding Academic Achievement award.
“I guess my nerdiness paid off,” Davis joked.
What Davis calls her first “big girl pageant” took place last August, when she won Miss South Central, making her eligible to be one of 17 women to compete for the crown of Miss Minnesota.
“These were the ‘cream of the crop’,” Davis said. The Miss Minnesota board members said that this was the most competitive group they have seen in a quarter of a century.
“I worked hard and my hard work paid off,” she said, noting that last year’s first and second runners-up, competing again this year, didn’t make it into the top five.
“And they are so talented. It just tells you how competitive it was,” she said.
The intense pageant week began June 14 and ended June 20, with Davis receiving a $750 scholarship for her win.
Davis was also one of the top five finalists for the Quality of Life award honoring dedication to one’s platform.
Each pageant contestant has a platform, or a service they devote themselves to.
For Davis, her platform is “Autism Awareness: Solving the Puzzle,” and it is very important to her because her 17-year-old brother, Trevor, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder.
Davis explained autism as a communication disorder with different levels of severity.
In many cases, a person with autism will have poor eye contact, a hard time understanding facial and body language, and have a difficult time in social situations, according to Davis.
“Going to the same high school as Trevor, I got a front row seat to how mean people can be,” Davis said, explaining it was hard for her brother to make friends.
She remembers seeing Trevor sitting in the lunch room alone at a table. He looked up at her and he had tears in his eyes.
Davis walked over and asked what was wrong with her brother. Trevor told her he was lonely.
She saw a need for a social skills-type class that would benefit children with autism like her brother.
As a college student at St. Olaf in Northfield, Davis wanted to bring a social skills class or “club” to the Northfield Middle School. She brought the idea to the school’s autism specialist and it began in February.
While Davis was starting her own social skills club, a social class was also being introduced at Dassel-Cokato High School.
Trevor was enrolled in this new class, and Davis has seen a dramatic change in her brother because of it.
“It was the first time he was talking about his buddies,” Davis said, explaining her brother began making friends.
“[The class] really changed his life for the positive,” Davis said.
“His self-esteem skyrocketed,” she added.
“Anybody can benefit, but it’s geared toward people with autism,” Davis said.
It’s about overcoming barriers, Davis said.
“There is no barrier that can’t be overcome,” she added.
The official platform for the Miss America organization is the Children’s Miracle Network.
Not giving up
Davis is determined to one day be Miss Minnesota and go on to the Miss USA pageant.
“I had a blast. I came out with 16 friends I will have forever and . . . I’ll be back,” Davis added.
Miss Twin Cities, Brook Kilgarriff, was crowned Miss Minnesota 2009, but Davis hopes Kilgarriff will be crowning her next year, Davis said.
She is thinking about running for another local pageant since this summer she will give up her South Central crown.
“I’m on a roll so I want to keep at it,” she said.
“I really want to be Miss Minnesota . . . not only because of the growth and development it’s provided me, but also to have that voice so I can work on behalf of my platform.”
This summer, Davis will have some fun performing as a dancer in the upcoming Dassel-Cokato Community Theatre Production of “Little Me.”
To learn more about Davis and her platform, go to www.nataliedavis.weebly.com.