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Experience here leads to state crown

Cloquet grad says school lessons helped with Miss Minnesota title

Ellie Evenson is not your typical beauty queen.

Crowned Miss Minnesota for America Strong on June 2, the Cloquet grad wrestled her senior year at Cloquet High School and portrayed a delightfully wicked witch in the "Wizard of Oz," the school fall musical in 2022.

Evenson would also say the Miss Minnesota for America Strong is also not a stereotypical pageant. Part of the Mrs. America organization - which also includes Mrs. America World and Mrs. World - participants are encouraged to be advocates for whatever cause they choose and to support one another, like family, she said. It's not the same as the Miss Minnesota pageant, which provides scholarships and the opportunity to compete for Miss America. There are many pageant groups, she said, for girls with different interests.

Evenson competed in four categories at the pageant in Eagan - interview, swimsuit, evening gown and onstage questions -all bringing past experience to play, she said.

Wrestling helped with the swimsuit category, she said.

"You have to walk on stage in a swimsuit and high heels and be judged - that's hard to do," she said "As a sport, wrestling made me physically and mentally better-conditioned. You have to put yourself out there. I also had to tackle ... things I didn't know I could do. I'd go ahead and do it anyway."

In addition to making her a fine actress, theater taught her how to speak clearly and articulately, and address an audience.

"Even just communicating with my teachers at school really contributed to my interview skills," said the University of Wisconsin Superior sophomore, who is majoring in communications and multimedia journalism with a theater minor.

Evenson has been in a variety of pageants since 2016, but this is her first crown. Ellie has won Miss Congeniality five times, her mother, Angela, said.

"I started calling her Gracie Lous Freebush, from the movie 'Miss Congeniality,'" her mom said. "So I'm really happy she got to experience a win. I'm also super-happy that she was able to represent Cloquet. Not only do we love this town, but usually about 75 percent of pageant contestants are from the metro area. It's nice to have someone representing the Northland win."

Angela said she wasn't immediately supportive when her daughter said she wanted to try a pageant, because of all the stereotypes.

"I quickly learned that pageant contestants are typically very impressive, accomplished women and girls who also do a lot of community service and advocacy for causes," she said.

Ellie Evenson's cause is homelessness. She named the advocacy component of her platform "shelter from the storm," in a nod to a Bob Dylan song.

"It's all about helping the homeless community and encouraging people to embrace their unique talents to do that (help)," she said. "Do what you really love to give back to your community, whether that's baking or art or something else."

Evenson has been baking meals and desserts and bringing them to Life House in Duluth, which provides support services to meet the needs of those ages 14 to 24 who are unstably housed and/or navigating various challenges in life.

As Miss Minnesota for America Strong this year, Evenson wants to hold a different donation drive each month of her reign. She is available for appearances - look for her in the Cloquet Labor Day parade - across the state.

She will also have to prepare for the national competition held in Las Vegas in August. Over nine days there, she will compete in interview, swimsuit, evening gown and state costume competition.

"You make your own costume based on something that represents your state," she said. "That could be anything from dressing up like Betty Crocker or a lady slipper flower."

Last year's Minnesota candidate dressed up like a roll of cellophane tape, in homage to the invention of the Scotch brand of tape at Minnesota's 3M company.

"You really get to embrace your creativity," she said.

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