Wednesday, September 28, 2016

"My experience at the pageant" By Ava Ernst

Back in February, I told my mom I really wanted to compete in a pageant. My mom said I had to wait until I was 13-years-old because she feels that is the earliest young girls should compete. I begged and begged her but she said no. But then an opportunity came up that made her change her mind—kind of.

With my Proud parents after the pageant

I should mention that my mom was Mrs. Minnesota International 2003 and is now a pageant coach, and she has remained close with the MN International director Allison Stavrakis. Allison had mentioned that the one pre-teen contestant signed up for the pageant had decided to drop out, so she was going to cancel the pre-teen division. My mom thought this might be a good way to see if I really liked this whole pageant thing without actually breaking her rule of making me wait until I was 13 to compete. She asked me if I would be interested and I was like “DEFINITELY!” My mom told me I would have to still go on stage and “compete” alongside the teens in all of the categories but that I wouldn’t actually be competing against any other pre-teens. In my eyes that was better than nothing so I said “Let’s do this!”      


I have seen my mom coach pageant clients but I myself had never done anything like this. My mom taught me how to do a pageant walk, pose, and stage presence. I have always loved the stage! I also memorized and practiced my 30-second platform speech about my platform, “Don’t Shop—ADOPT!”. We had fun choosing my wardrobe, getting headshots, and preparing for the big weekend.


Finally pageant weekend arrived! All day at school on Friday, I couldn’t wait for my mom to pick me up. As you might guess, I was very excited!  After all, this was my very first pageant. I just couldn’t wait to get started!


After hours of waiting, school was over and my mom and I were ready to go. In a half an hour we arrived at the hotel.  During the drive there, I noticed that my throat was starting to hurt a little bit.  I didn’t pay much attention to it because I was so excited.


When we arrived at the Holiday Inn, my mom’s teen client Kelly Brown (now Miss Teen MN International 2016) was waiting for us since we were giving her a ride. We went up to our room to drop our stuff off and then we headed over to the Wellstone Center for Orientation.


During Orientation, we all introduced ourselves and talked a little bit about our platforms. The reigning queens were introduced and it was fun to see some former queens in attendance, including my mom! Then we had our first rehearsal where we learned our stage placements and practiced walking to our spots on stage. It was a lot of fun but my throat was starting to hurt even more. After rehearsal, we went back to the hotel and I went to sleep right away because I had a big day ahead!

With the outgoing titleholder Lillie Imm after Interview
The next day competition started! I was extra excited because this morning I had my interview! I got my hair and makeup done which was really fun. The interview competition was my favorite part of the whole weekend because I got to meet new people! It was soooooo much fun just getting to know all the judges and share my story and my platform with them!  Since I was the only Pre-Teen contestant, I interviewed alongside the Teen contestants.  I later found out that I got the second highest score in Interview after the eventual Teen winner, Kelly Brown.  So I am pretty proud of that!
Answering my on-stage question about my platform "Don't Shop-Adopt!"

After interview was over, we headed to the theater for more rehearsals. We practiced fun fashion wear, evening gown, and on-stage questions. It was also very fun spending time with the outgoing titleholder Lilly Imm during down time. We had lots of fun together and had Subway for lunch which was provided by the pageant.

Finally it was time for the pageant! Surprisingly, I wasn’t very nervous but rather very excited. It was sooooo much fun. First we introduced ourselves and the city or county we represented. Then we each gave our platform speech and answered a question about our platform. I felt very confident with my answer. I later found out I had the highest score in that area (even including the Teens). So I am probably more proud of that than anything else during pageant weekend since that is what this pageant is all about—platform!

Modeling my Fun Fashion wear outfit from the Pageant Shop!

Next we competed in fun fashion wear—I was contestant #1! My fun fashion outfit was rhinestoned neon pink with a black belt and ruffled skirt. I just love it. Lastly, we competed in evening gown. I felt like a princess! The outgoing queens gave their farewells and some special awards were given out.
Modeling my Evening Gown. Even though I had strep Throat, I still felt like a princess!

Next it was time for the crowning. It was so fun having that crowning moment. I could hear my family cheering for me in the audience. After I was crowned, the Teen division was up and I was really hoping my mom’s client Kelly would win—and she did! It was really fun to see Kelly get crowned. Next up were the Miss contestants. My mom didn’t have any clients competing in that division but I was so happy to see Sabrina Astar get crowned! She was so nice to me all weekend. Then in the Mrs division, Morgan Bredde won and she is so beautiful and nice. All of my pageant sisters are so sweet and kind.
My Crowning Moment!

With my new sister Queens moments after the crowning !

After the pageant, we had the Coronation Party where some more special awards were given out and cake was served. The outgoing queens introduced us and we each said a few words. By this time of night, my throat was killing me and really starting to hurt. The next day, my parents took me to Urgent Care and it turned out I had strep throat all weekend and we didn’t know it! No wonder I felt so rotten. But I am glad I pushed through it because it such a wonderful weekend.

Saying a few words at the Coronation Party!

I am so happy I tried this! It is definitely something I want to do again once I turn 13. My first pageant was truly amazing. Special thanks to Allison Stavrakis and the rest of the pageant staff for treating us so well, and also to the sponsors of the pageant for the wonderful prize package. I can’t wait to see what this year holds and I am so honored to be your Miss MN Pre-Teen International 2016!  

Ava Ernst    (photos by Paula Preston)

Monday, September 12, 2016

"Polo Classic Event for the American Heart Association" By Kelly Brown

Out of the events I done throughout my reign, one in particular stands out amongst the others. That event was the Polo Classic Event for the American Heart Association. Here I was able to support the national platform “Go Red for Women”. Not only was a volunteering my time to support, but here I got the opportunity to help raise money! 


My friend and I arrived as a team and got the opportunity to venture the grounds communicating with people about the raffle tickets we were selling. Each individual who purchased a ticket got the chance to win prizes as well as help out the proceeds that all went to the American Heart Association. A wide majority of them were very supportive of the cause! My friend and I as a team raised over two hundred dollars in just over a couple hours.

Not only was it fun raising money and awareness, but it was a blast to look at many cool cars and watch the game of Polo! Old fashioned cars were lined up amongst the field-one even reminded me of Herby and had my lucky number 3 on it! We got to wear super fun Kentucky Derby style hats which made it a ton a fun. I also got to watch many people model the fun hats they wore. It was a great experience full of laughs and smiles!

 Miss Teen Minnesota 2017
Kelly Brown

Sunday, September 11, 2016

"Fashion show fun! "by Sabrina Astar


From August 16th to the 18th my sister queen, Kelly, and I had the most amazing opportunity to emcee at the Maple Grove Community and Recreation Center for their annual Back to School fashion show and their senior fashion show. It was such a fun appearance that will stick with both of us for the rest of our lives.

On the 16th Kelly and I were able to attend the rehearsal for the Back to School fashion show that would take place the very next day. During this practice we butchered names and were corrected frequently on how to pronounce names correctly so that on the day of the show we would be completely professional and the show would go smoothly. This was also the time when we got the opportunity to officially meet the models and talk to them about how to have good stage presence. Kelly and I even walked the catwalk ourselves to not only lighten the mood, but also to make the models feel more comfortable on stage. This part of the process was a blast, we really got to connect with the students modeling and got to learn a little about them before they hit the stage for “show time”.

We headed to the show to next day with excitement to see the models all dressed up! One thing that was very unique was that each model got to pick her own outfit from whatever store she wanted at The Shoppes at Arbor Lakes in Maple Grove. Each outfit was personalized and it was awesome to see what each model picked to showcase. Kelly and I were continuously stating how we wanted to go shopping afterward to try and replicate some of the outfit choices. The show went seamlessly that night and we both felt like each model left the Community Center with a little more confidence then when they came in that day!

On our last day Kelly and I emceed the senior fashion show. This show was nothing short of a goodtime and a lot of fun. The seniors were so awesome to work with and had so much style on stage. Many of the models were cracking jokes and giggling on stage which gave the show such a lighthearted and relaxed vibe. It was a great way to end our time at the Maple Grove Community Center!

I want to give a big “thank you” to the Maple Grove Community Center and Recreation Department for letting Kelly and I be a part of such a fun event! I hope that future queens get this experience because it was nothing short of amazing!

Miss Minnesota International

Sabrina Astar


"My Mrs. International experience!" By Morgan Bredde

This is the first entry in a three-part series about my Mrs. International experience!

First up, my preparations!


I worked with an incredible team to get ready. From Cheri Kennedy and her amazing mock interview judges, Sarah Moses for her keen eye for my wardrobe, Gaspar Cruz for my killer gown, Suzy Bootz for her marketing plan and mental preparation, Dee Henderson and her body contouring sponsorship, Meg Junker of Core Meals for my detailed meal plan and prep, and the ever-so dedicated Adam Spiker for my fitness prep. Let’s not forget my wonderful husband and supportive mom and family. I couldn’t have done this without any of them.



I was most nervous about fitness as I was only 6 months postpartum by the time the pageant actually hit. The neat thing was that my fitness preliminary would hit exactly 5 months after I started training with Adam. I am so proud to say that I was able to lose 70 pounds (none of which was baby weight—I lost 15 pounds during my second pregnancy) in that short frame, gained a great deal of lean muscle mass, and dropped my body fat from 21% to a very lean 13%! Adam and the community support at Vault Fitness kept me going as I reached for my goals and I am so happy to continue working under his guidance and fun sessions! Meg of Core Meals measured and calculated my macros to ensure that everything I was eating was fueling me for my workouts and helping me keep my goal in mind while I made heart-healthy choices. Through Dee’s sponsorship, I was able to smooth any wrinkles in my skin and reduce the appearance of stretch marks. Her staff is welcoming, knowledgeable, and so much fun to be around! It is still so surreal to think that I won fitness!

Cheri and I had been working together since I was pregnant with Blayre. Talk about a Cinderella story! I was around 200 pounds, with bright blue and purple hair, and a desperate need to combat post and antepartum depression. We spent countless hours together, she wiped many tears, celebrated all my victories (no matter how small), held my babies, cheered me up and on and always reminded me that I was her Mrs. International. We are just getting started, but I know she is forever a friend. Every Tuesday, we had a mock interview session with her outstanding judges: Marcia, Gerri, and Dennis. They nipped all my bad habits in the bud and polished my words until they shone my heart from within. I am a notorious speed-talker, so I always challenged myself to slow down—it never really did though!

Sarah Moses is a genius. Point blank, period. Her stock is amazing, but never once did I feel like she was more focused on a sale than just dressing me to be as confident as I could be. Even with so many things going on, she went above and beyond to make sure I had everything I needed to make an impression. She also worked with the amazing talent, Gaspar, to design my dream gown. It was exactly what I pictured and then some, and Gaspar was able to make magic happen on the tightest of deadlines and was so kind to deliver my gown in person AND alter it on me! Not only was I dressed in a gorgeous gown (covered in vintage, hard to find stones), I was able to walk confidently to my dreams knowing I wouldn’t trip!

Lastly, Suzy Bootz was such a treasure for me. Being able to speak to a former Mrs. International a couple times every month was almost like talking to a celebrity. Here was a woman who had held my dream job for a year and was now helping me on my journey to hold it for myself. She calmed so many fears of mine. I know how draining it must be to answer the same questions over and over, but she did so and did it with a smile and a warm heart. Her husband owns hospice homes, so you can imagine how much of a blessing it was to hear her touched by my platform and to watch her become passionate about it as well! Suzy had this reminder for me, at first, it was a phrase used to center me in my purpose. She would ask me: “Morgan, when you’re sitting on the couch with Oprah during her life class, and she asks you ‘What do you know?’, what will you tell her? How did you get here?”. I pondered this so often, and always wondered what exactly I would say. But after a particularly scary grapple with pre-pageant anxiety about failure, she found the one sentence that calmed all fears. She said: There was a 1st runner up to Miss USA one time. She might not have won, but tell me—do you know who Halle Berry was first runner up to? No? Then remember Halle Berry.” See, losing is not always failing, it’s making room for different successes. So as my name was called for third runner up, I was not upset. Disappointed? Sure! Of course! But I remembered Halle and walked with my head held high. You haven’t seen the last of me, in fact, I am just getting started.



Stay tuned for parts 2 and 3, and my special blog where my husband gets his very own blog dedicated to his immeasurable support of my pursuit of the crown!



Making the minutes count,



Tuesday, September 6, 2016

“If you’re a California girl, how on earth did you wind up in the frozen tundra?!” by Morgan Bredde

A lot of people ask: “If you’re a California girl, how on earth did you wind up in the frozen tundra?!” My mother landed a job at Concordia University in January of 1996. We moved from SoCal to St. Paul in the freezing cold…without winter coats (I don’t think they even sold them in California at the time). Since our initial move, I have fallen deeply in love with Minnesota and its lack of seasons.


I currently reside in Woodbury, it’s a booming suburb with a small-community feel. Fun fact: There are 3 Mrs. Minnesota Internationals living in Woodbury. I guess you could call us a lucky city!


There are a few things everyone should know about MN, so I have separated it by category: best food, best attraction, my favorite thing about Minnesota, and we must talk about the weather (aka, snow!)

The best food: I am OBSESSED with the food from Holy Land located in Midtown Global Market. They have the best attitudes in addition to the best food. When I was pregnant with Blayre, we stopped for the first time. I was in heaven! The crispiest fries, the most flavorful meats, the Holy Land sauce alone is worth the trek downtown. The best part is definitely the people who work there. They played with Beau and treated him to his own plate of fries. We will always make a trip to see them when in the area. They were also recently featured on Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives, so you know they’re yummy!


The best attraction would have to be the Mall of America. It’s really what we’re known for. Besides the hundreds of shops and eateries, it features two hotels, one aquarium, one theme park, and a movie theatre! There’s truly something for everyone!



My personal favorite part of Minnesota is the theatre district! Minneapolis is rich in theatre opportunities, many of which I have partaken in since I was a very little girl. Besides our diverse culture and fast-paced city vibe, the theatre district is how we earned our nick name “The Mini-Apple” as it reminds many of New York City! You can catch Broadway shows and local treasures year-round.

Lastly, Minnesota is notorious for its weather. The fact that we actually had -57-degree weather makes me feel like I’m living amongst the brave researchers in Antarctica. People always wonder how we handle it and why we would choose to live in a place that stocks winter gear year-round…but quite honestly, I’m that girl that gets thrilled for the first snowfall. There is something incredibly magical about a snow-covered yard for Christmas, and I love the way it glitters underneath the lights on our house. I do love a good sunny vacation, but I would take blizzards and boots over bugs and sunburns any day!



I am proud to call Minnesota my home state and to represent it to the fullest this year!


Making the minutes count,
Mrs. Minnesota 2016
Morgan Bredde

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

" 1 year, 12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days" by Kelly Brown

 1 year, 12 months, 52 weeks, 365 days. That is the time I was so generously granted to make a mark with my platform with the International pageant by my side. If one was to ask me before I was crowned  what I plan to do with my platform throughout the year, my response would be: “To live, breath, and promote it”. Now that time has passed, I am more able to not only tell you more specifically what I plan to do, but what I HAVE done. 

Throughout my year as your Miss Teen Minnesota International, I aspire to raise awareness for people with intellectual disabilities and developmental delays because they have NO boundaries and therefore needs to be shared. I will continue sharing my brothers’ story in hopes that someday people will understand that disability does not mean inability! My goal will continue to be protecting the rights of those with disabilities and supporting their inclusion and participation in our community. 

I have and will continue to dedicate my time and effort to organizations such as The Arc, Project Explore, Summer Olympics, and others aiming to support people and their families. I have events approaching in the fall with Project Explore that includes hanging out with these individuals! I have volunteered at the Summer Olympics which included meeting many amazing people and having fun, taking pictures, and directing people around. Many more times like this are to come for the remainder of my reign.

Miss Teen Minnesota 2016
Kelly Brown

Friday, August 26, 2016

"Prelude to…Oh no!" by Morgan Bredde


As a Go Red for Women ambassador, we are committed to raising awareness and funds throughout the year. I am extremely passionate about events and coordinating my love of celebrating with my unwavering need to educate women on ways to prevent heart disease. One of my favorite appearances thus far was the Prelude to Polo dinner at renowned celebrity artist, Anthony Whelihan’s home.


Sabrina, Kelly and myself decided to attend together and I’m so glad we did. With nationals coming around the corner, it was so nice to check in and reconnect with them both as we had been so busy with preparations. Our duties ranged from greeter, to information centers and I was grateful that we had each other to keep company in between guests arriving.


I had been able to meet our speaker for the evening on behalf of the American Heart Association, and her story was incredible. She survived a heart transplant and now served as a life-saving resource for other women and people affected by heart disease. It is such an honor being able to hear her talk at our meetings, but being able to witness her move other people with her words is so inspiring. Always use your voice for the greater good!


I will never forget taking a photo with the polo horse that made an appearance. I absolutely do  not mess with horses. They’re huge and I have no shame admitting that they terrify me. But of course, I’m still living my “year without fear”, so I took a picture with him. 1000% NOPE. I said hello, he said “Winnie Neigh Neigh” and then moved a little too quickly for me. Naturally that was one of the photos captured by the event photographers.


After collecting myself again, we had the opportunity to mingle with guests during a fabulous dinner about our upcoming year, our platforms, and the most incredible macaroni and cheese we were all shoveling on our plates. With the fitness competition only a couple weeks away, I opted to only 2 trips to the heaping bowl of cheesy blessings, but made a mental note about the many minutes I would need to spend doing cardio to work off the food I just ate.


Perhaps the coolest part of the evening was the performer who entertained us with wheeling around the guests in a large steel wheel and then lit his shoes on fire and dazzled us as the evening came to an end. It was so nice to see so many people come together to support our fight against heart disease in such a fashionable, unique manner. Anthony has such gorgeous art and was generous to donate the official painting of the Polo Classic to a raffle ticket winner where all the proceeds directly benefitted our chapter of the American Heart Association!


Even if horses aren’t my thing, I would do it one hundred times over just knowing this event helped save lives.


Making the minutes count,


"I was born in Minnesota" by Kelly Brown


I was born in Minnesota. I was raised in Minnesota. I have spent 18 years living the Minnesotan lifestyle, so what could possibly be better than representing a place I call nothing but home? From the blazing hot summers to the icey cold winters, Minnesota has got it all! We are the “hot and you’re cold, you’re yes and you’re no” of the midwestern states. Non-Minnesotans are wrong about us. Not all days are spent out on the frozen lake fishing or shoveling our driveways, many of the days are spent in other everyday activities such as shopping and movies (at least in my case…).

If you like variety, Minnesota is the place to be! I am grateful to to say I’ve been able to experience laying in the warm sand one month, and a short couple months later I am taking my sled back to my childhood park. Speaking of a variety of nice weather, one cannot mention nice weather without mentioning the nice people. This is one of my favorite things about my home state. Everywhere you go, people are smiling! One time I met a man from out of state who said he would get so confused as to why when he was walking down the street here, random people would be smiling at him. He stated “I didn’t even do anything, it kinda weirded me out!” I giggled, of course. Nothing wrong with some “Minnesota-nice” individuals!

The scenery here is at the top of my list as well! Beautiful parks, waterfalls, and places to go on an evening bike ride are always near. Two of my favorite places are Vermillion Falls as well as Minnehaha Falls! I love how you can choose to bike, walk, or run here. My cousins and I would visit these places frequently as a child, so it has left a special love for them in my heart. Overall, Minnesota is one of the best places to go or be. I am honored to represent my home.​

Kelly Brown
Miss Teen Minnesota 2016

Thursday, July 28, 2016

" Recruitment" by Sabrina Astar

Having a crown and banner can really capture people’s attention.  Winning this title has given the very unique opportunity to meet with multiple organizations and learn about all of the extensive work they do for the community.  It’s an amazing feeling to be apart of such an influential group of people.  The organization that is closest to my heart is of course Big Brothers Big Sisters due to my connection with them.


Throughout my reign it is very important to me that I meet as many people as possible and learn as much as I can about everyone I meet. To me, life is all about the connections you make with people and enjoying everyday with people who have a passion for helping others. Through Big Brothers Big Sisters I have met so many people with similar points of view, we all have this desire to change children’s lives for the better. When a group of people comes together for a common goal, it is a powerful thing.


This next year will be full of big and small goals that I will reach there is one thing that I will specifically working towards the entire year, recruiting more males to volunteer and mentor.  There are 21,000 young boys looking to get matched with a “Big brother” this next year and it is my goal to make sure that I get more men involved.  I have been focusing on reaching out to college-aged students especially because of the fact that young men really lookup to that age of males.


Throughout my reign I will be going to colleges around the state and soon the country to stress the importance of mentoring while being a student. The more involved a student is during college increases their chances of being a volunteer for the rest of their lives and Big Brothers Big is the perfect organization to do just that.

Miss Minnesota 2016
Sabrina Astar

Saturday, July 16, 2016

"Woman Up" by Morgan Bredde


One of my first appearances as Mrs. Minnesota was so empowering. Former Mrs. Minnesota, Kelly Jahner-Byrne, invited me to the Minnesota chapter of ‘E-Women Network’ to present about my platform and the Minnesota International Pageant. While I knew I would be providing information to over 50 business women and community leaders, I had no idea how much I would take back myself.


The speaker for this event was the inspirational Michelle Galarza. Michelle is an esteemed relationship expert. Not only dealing with romantic relationships, she provided so much insight on the relationship we have with ourselves and our decision making. She talked about how people make decisions out of scarcity and how those experiences set up our futures. Such an interesting discussion was heard in the comments from fellow attendees at my table, none of us truly realized how often our decisions had stemmed from a place of scarcity.


I enjoyed being able to speak about the values of the International Pageant system to women who shared those values. Many of them expressed further interest and even a couple women who contemplated competing themselves. When you surround yourself with people who share your vision and aspirations, it tends to motivate you to reach outside of your comfort zone because you have so much support along the way.


My favorite moment from the day was after sharing about my platform, nearly every single woman in attendance approached me and either took information, or extended their networks and support to me through business cards and offers of donations. Their donations and partnerships will directly benefit Crescent Cove, the Midwest’s first residential hospice for children. One lady in particular touched my heart. She had lost a child as an infant and for 30 years, she searched for joy in her career. While she continued to search, she knew there was something else God would bring to her, she just didn’t know when. She said she knew as I spoke that this was it. She had found a new way to utilize her talents to serve others and to honor her son’s memory.

That’s what life is truly all about: using your God-given talents to serve the world around you.


Thank you to Kelly for your continued support of the Mrs., Miss, and Teen Minnesota International Pageant. We are truly grateful for your dedication, and more personally, for your friendship.


Making the minutes count,