By Emily Bialkowski
One Caledonia teen is just days away from the lights, the stage, the catwalk and all the glitter of the Miss Teen Minnesota International Pageant. March 15 and 16, Vanessa Rud will represent Houston County in St. Cloud with high hopes of taking the title along with the $10,000 scholarship that goes with it.
Rud is a senior at Caledonia Area High School and said finding her place in a community focused on athletics has been a challenge at times.
“I feel like there isn’t activities besides sports in Caledonia. I’m a girly girl – I’m not really a sports type. My mom didn’t know what I could participate in and she thought I was too old to start dance. She saw this pageant in a newspaper and told me about it.”
Rud had to submit an application that included a resume. In it she idenitified her platform, a principle on which the contestant makes an appeal to the public. Rud’s platform message is about bullying – something she feels very strongy about, having been in the position of not always swimming in the mainstream channel herself.
“It’s all about who you are inside,” she said. “Lots of people stereotype girls who are really girly as not being able to survive in the real word. I feel there’s a place for everyone in this world, and I feel this is my place to fit in.”
Rud doesn’t just talk the talk. She’s created her own website to teach people how to fight bullying; she’s teamed up with Jeff Reiland and Gundersen Lutheran to help the medical center create an anti-bullying, informative website; and she’s given presentations at school to address the topic with peers.
Rud will get the chance to speak about her platform during her on-stage interview and private interview. She will also compete in fun fashion, fitness wear and evening gown categories.
Rud said she knew most people wouldn’t know much about the pageant circuit, which made her nervous about getting sponsorships.
“I didn’t know what type of reaction I was going to get. Yeah, I got some negative reactions, but I also got lots of people to support me,” she said.
When sponsors help a young woman in this process, they are also giving the contestant’s platform a nod, which turns over in unexpected ways sometimes.
Rud said she was quite nervous going to her father’s place of work, Milestone Materials. She met with the owner and taught him about the increase in bullying across the nation. As a guy that grew up 50 years ago, she said he had trouble fathoming the fact that bullying is an issue.
“I left the building wondering if I had gotten through,” she recalled.
Two months later, Rud’s father went to the annual company meeting where a presentation titled “Co-worker Bullying” was given.
“To know that I have such a large impact on someone with so much power really made me realize that I can make a difference in the world,” Rud said.
In addition to suporting a platform, sponsors help pay the entry fee and can also offset the cost of purchasing gowns, one of Rud’s favorite parts of competing. “I knew exactly what I wanted,” she said, adding that it’s a strategy for blondes to wear blue or red in pageants.
A lot of money can be invested into a pageant between entry fees, clothing, hair and make-up (often $500 or more), photography and transportation. And, as indicated earlier, some people have made a science out of the business.
Enter Rud’s co-worker Brittany Dascher, who coincidentally won the Miss Teen Wisconsin International Pageant in 2007. “She’s my pageant coach,” Rud said. “She taught me how to walk, where to look for dresses and everything like that. It was a big coincidence that I ended up working with her this winter.”
Jumping in to support Rud were her grandparents, who purchased her interview suit and, again, her coach, who taught her how to apply her make-up and do her hair.
“It’s a really expensive industry but an experience of a lifetime – a chance to meet new friends and to know there’s more out there in the world,” she said. “I want to do something that other people haven’t done and stand out. I feel this is my opportunity, and I’m hoping for the best.”
Vanessa is the daughter of Jodi and Stacy Rud. If she wins the title of Miss Teen Minnesota International she will compete in Chicago for the national crown July 25-27.
To learn more about Rud and the Miss Teen Minnesota International Pageant, visit http://missteenminnesota.com/current-contestants.php.