Melissa Redzuan wears her “work crown” when she makes appearances as a Lifetime Queen of the Global United Pageant. It’s a phrase the Eden Prairie resident adopted from her youngest daughter, Amiia Razman’s, reaction when Redzuan first won a crown in the 2019 pageant. “I told her, ‘Mommy worked hard because Mommy helped the community,’” Redzuan said.
Community service is weighted as 50% of the criteria in judging the Heart of Global United award, which was Redzuan’s original title in the Minnesota-based pageant. (An essay question contributes 30% of the score, and a personality photo the remaining 20%.)
The nearly 300 hours of community service Redzuan listed in her application encompassed such activities as volunteering at Eden Prairie’s PROP Shop, Raksha 5K Run/Walk and Vigil to End Distracted Driving, and GIVE Gathering; organizing school supply drives; serving food at a soup kitchen and participating in highway cleanups; helping to plan a murder mystery fundraising event; teaching zumba; and more.
She had also served as a judge for the Global United pageant before entering herself. Redzuan met the pageant’s founder and director, Wendy Lindberg Hauger, through both women’s involvement in Minnesota Women of Today (Redzuan is a former president of the now-defunct Eden Prairie chapter and a former statewide office holder.) “I just love the mission behind Global United,” including both the pageant’s philanthropic focus, with an emphasis on fundraising for childhood cancer research, as well as its diversity, Redzuan said.
“It’s not a typical pageant like, you look around and you see only young people, or you see how you think queens should look like,” Redzuan said. That didn’t stop her from hesitating when pageant staff encouraged her to enter the competition herself. “I know I always advocate that you are beautiful no matter what size and what you look like, but my first reaction was like, ‘Really? Do you think anybody wants me to be their queen?’ Look at who I am. I am wearing hijab. I am, like, head-to-toe covered, and it is not like a typical queen,” Redzuan said.
Those moments of self-doubt were part of what helped her decide to run. “I think that’s also my mission, to break the stereotypes of what queens should look like,” Redzuan said.
Redzuan entered the online division of the pageant; there is also a live division, with contestants from around the world competing virtually. “We are really and truly an international pageant,” with titleholders from countries such as India and South Africa, as well as various U.S. states, Redzuan said. Her own Mrs. Heart of Global United title references her home country of Malaysia, “because I’m proud of my heritage and where I’m from.”
Two years after receiving her first title, Redzuan became eligible for, and received, the Global United Lifetime Queen honor. Bestowed at the discretion of the pageant’s executive director, the Lifetime Queen award is a never-relinquished title that comes with an additional crown and sash, as well as invitation to join the pageant’s staff.
For Redzuan, a special education paraprofessional in Eden Prairie Schools, that has meant becoming the director of the children’s pageant. “They said, ‘You work with kids; you love kids; you’ll be perfect,’” she said. In 2021, the pageant held a mini live children’s pageant – extra crowns were on hand from the lack of live events in 2020. “We thought it was just a fun day for the kids,” Redzuan said.
Afterward, however, “They were seeing a lot of the kids that were crowned last year start doing more community service because they were feeling empowered,” Redzuan said. That led to the creation of an official live children’s pageant for 2022.
The organization also holds online pageants and photo contests for children with age divisions starting at birth through the teen years. Redzuan’s oldest daughter, Amirah Razman, a 2020 EPHS graduate, won the 2020 Miss Teen Spirit of Global United award, which places a heavier emphasis on personality photos in the judging, along with a community service and essay component.
Now that Redzuan has received the Lifetime Queen honor, her children are no longer eligible to compete in the pageants. Amilia, however, really wanted a crown. When her mother received her honors, “She said, ‘This is your fancy work crown,’” Redzuan said, “And I’m like, ‘yeah, it’s my work crown.’ And then she goes, ‘Oh, I want to have one, too. I want to help.’”
Redzuan often takes her daughters along when volunteering and wanted them to understand the power of community service and be recognized for it as well. Prior to the 2022 pageants, Amilia had a “princess” crown from Global United, an honorary program offered to encourage children to participate in the pageant’s activities and also sometimes provided (as a prince or princess crown) to children undergoing treatment for cancer or other serious illnesses. At the 2022 pageant banquet, all three of Redzuan’s daughters – Amirah, Amilia, and Aleeyah — received their own lifetime appointments as Queens for Kids Ambassadors. The award, given to children of Lifetime Queens by a selection committee, comes with a new crown and sash.
At the 2022 banquet, pageant director Lindberg Hauger said, “Beyond the help that we give to children’s cancer charities, there is this nice surprise secondary effect that comes with girls and women and crowns on their heads. When you get a chance to feel beautiful, feel amazing, you become empowered. When you become empowered, you can do 100 things you didn’t think were possible, and there’s so much you can do to change the world.”
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