Miss Minnesota 2022 received her crown on June 17 at Grace Church in Eden Prairie. Rachel Evangelisto, formerly Miss Winona, is the first Indigenous woman to receive the state title. She will go on to compete in the Miss America pageant in December.
The statewide pageant took place at its Eden Prairie location for the second year; prior to the cancelled 2020 event, the Miss Minnesota pageant was held at Eden Prairie High School for at least 10 years.
The 21 contestants in the 2022 event began practices, which included learning choreography for group performances, on the Monday prior to the two-night event at Grace Church. Preliminary competition took place on June 16, with final competition on June 17, and a dress rehearsal that Wednesday. “It’s been a full week of stuff!” said Morgyn Haugen, Miss Moorhead, that Thursday.
All of the 19- to 26-year-olds competing were winners of local pageants, whether closed (only residents or those attending school in the area could compete) or open (allowing participation from women residing anywhere in Minnesota). Miss Minnesota competition scores tallied judges’ results from off-stage private interviews with the candidates, as well as on-stage performances in talent, red carpet (evening wear) and presentations of a pitch related to each candidate’s social impact initiative. (The swimsuit competition associated with Miss America pageants retired in 2019.)
Social impact platforms
Rachel Evangelisto’s social impact initiative is “Celebrating Culture and Driving Diversity.” An enrolled member of the Húnkpapha Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, she currently works as an Indian Child Welfare Advocate and, following her reign as Miss Minnesota, plans to attend Mitchell Hamline to study tribal law.
Other candidates’ platforms included topics such as organ donation, diversity in neurodivergent adults, suicide prevention, promoting mental wellness, increased access to breast cancer prevention, promoting volunteerism, Habitat for Humanity, and more.
First runner-up Angelina Amerigo’s campaign against single-use plastics and their impact on waterways has already had an effect, said Stephanie Berwald, one of her supporters.
“When we go to the store, my daughter says, ‘Let’s get a drink without a straw, because Miss Angelina says,’” Berwald stated. Amerigo, Miss Midwest, teaches at a dance studio in the Lakeland, Minn. area, and 13 students, along with parents and others associated with the studio, traveled to Eden Prairie for the pageant to support her.
A variety of talents
Amerigo showcased her talent for Broadway dance in that portion of the competition, while Evangelisto’s talent presentation was a routine of Jade Forest Praying Mantis Kung Fu.
More songs and dances were among the other talent performances. Second Runner-up Lori Martin Kingbird, Miss Heart of the Lakes, performed a Women’s Fancy Shawl Native American Dance. Miss Granite City, Grace Dietz, sang her original song, “Live,” which ties in with her platform message of suicide prevention. Miss St. Croix Valley, Rachel Weyandt, played “Bohemian Rhapsody” on the piano.
Talent presentations also included musical comedy and color guard routines, a recitation of the Maya Angelou poem “Still I Rise,” and storytelling combined with science information. Alexis Lombard, Miss Heartland, donned her waders for a spoken word presentation on water rescue techniques.
Why the contestants compete
Whitney McClain, Miss Northern Lakes, said she got involved in the Miss Minnesota pageant process after seeing a poster while attending Minnesota State University, Moorhead. She thought, “That sounds like fun.”
McClain cited personal growth as one of the benefits she’s found from participating in the pageants. A common theme among the participants was appreciation for the friendship and camaraderie they found with each other.
“Meeting the other girls” was her favorite part of the pageant, said Katelyn Mack, Miss Frazee. She was also impressed with the helpfulness of the pageant organizers, who she said were ready and willing to do a variety of things for the contestants, “from helping you steam your dress to finding you if you’re crying in the bathroom.”
Mack, whose platform is increasing awareness for youth in agriculture, signed up for her local pageant the week before so they had enough contestants to hold it. “I’m proud of her for stepping outside her comfort zone,” said her mother, Melissa Mack. “I hadn’t seen her wear a dress in years.”
Her first year as a pageant participant has been “a lot of fun,” Mack said, with part of the appeal being the scholarships.
Miss Minnesota 2022 distributed $189,290 in total cash and in-kind scholarships and awards. Rachel Evangelisto received a $10,000 scholarship as Miss Minnesota 2022; other cash scholarships were given to those who placed semi-finalists and to winners of the preliminary talent and red carpet competitions. The Miss America organization as a whole gives out over $5 million in scholarships annually.
Three previous Miss Minnesota titleholders have also won the Miss America crown: Gretchen Carlson, Miss America 1989; Dorothy Benham, Miss America 1977; and BeBe Shopp, Miss America 1948, who is currently the oldest living Miss America.
As Rachel Evangelisto begins her year as Miss Minnesota and prepares for the national competition, she provided a statement on her win: “To be the first Indigenous Miss Minnesota is the honor of a lifetime. I’m proud to be the representation that I needed to see as a little and hope to inspire our children to always reach for their dreams, no matter their background.”