Six years ago, I boarded a train bound for Williston to compete in my first state competition of Miss North Dakota.
It was June 2015 and the summer following my freshman year of college. I was nineteen and a fresh-faced newbie arriving for my first visit to Williston from Montana, where I had just finished a week of camp counselor training. While I was excited to be competing for the job of Miss North Dakota, I had just experienced a fulfilling week of outdoor adventure — sleeping out under the stars each night, singing my heart out around campfires, along with dreaming about the adventures that I knew were on the brink of happening that summer. And then, after one week, I packed my bag and headed home to North Dakota. I left my fellow staff feeling sad because I felt in my heart that I wanted to return; and yet, I was excited to dive headfirst into another world that upcoming week: a world of strong women, high heels, and service-focused individuals — a week surrounded by the individuals, traditions, and community of Miss North Dakota.
On that Sunday of competition week, I moved into the Williston State College dorms feeling slightly wobbly in my platform heels and freshly shaven legs, and yet, thrilled for the days to come.
I was not disappointed — the following days were incredible, and in many ways, reminded me of being at camp (as strange as that might sound). I quickly found myself bonding and laughing with the other girls, meeting people throughout the city of Williston, and learning about the traditions and legacy of the Miss North Dakota Pageant. While it may have appeared to be a completely different environment than Bible camp, some things were the same: I found myself around excited and passionate individuals who were ready, willing, and already making an impact in the world.
The week flew by and upon finals night, I found myself torn. I desperately wanted to win, and yet in my heart I knew the timing was not right… not yet anyway. That evening I was thrilled and humbled to place second runner-up and say “World Peace” in my on-stage interview. (A very proud moment!) I returned the following year and had similar feelings… I wanted it… but in my heart I could sense God saying: “Not yet.” I did not win but was again humbled to be chosen as second runner-up.
After a three-year hiatus which entailed living in Washington D.C., graduating from college, and starting my first “big girl” job — I returned for what I believed to be my third and final shot at winning the crown. I thought that this was “it;” it was finally my time: I was going to be Miss North Dakota and have the chance to serve and represent my state.
But then, it didn’t happen. And the funny thing is, I felt complete peace with the outcome. I knew I had given it my best and therefore accepted the fact that it wasn’t meant to be and that other opportunities were around the corner. Throughout my years of competing for Miss North Dakota I put my trust in the Lord’s plan and timing. I didn’t doubt Him; although, I will admit that it was at times often a challenge to be patient. But hindsight often brings clarity, and I can now openly say that I am able to look back and clearly see how God’s plan was at work. When I pause and reflect, it sometimes hits me just how beautifully it worked out… I never could have known. But our Creator did.
I had fully intended to be done competing in 2019; however, January of 2020 in the dead of winter I again felt God tugging at my heart and an inner voice saying: “Come on, Reyn. give it just one more go. One more time — what do you have to lose?”
And so, I did.
But then, *SURPRISE*, two weeks following that local competition a pandemic struck the world. COVID-19 became the new reality for all of us. Seemingly everything was either canceled or postponed, along with the 2020 Miss North Dakota Competition.
And so, my year instead became one of practicing patience and being intentional with preparation. Three months until the state competition stretched to fifteen — nearly a year and a half. For the sake of trying to keep this piece a blog (rather than a book), I’m not going to describe in depth the details of preparation; however, I will say that it was a lot. A lot of energy, time, research, collaboration, practice, (more practice), sweat, grit, and prayer.
During this time, I technically aged out (Miss America currently has an age limit of twenty-five); however, I was grandfathered in due to the pandemic, which means I am officially one of the oldest candidates to ever have competed for the job of Miss North Dakota, and now Miss America — a fact that I’m proud of!
The evening of June 12, 2021 a new Miss North Dakota was chosen to serve and represent the state of North Dakota. Determined by a panel of judges, it’s a subjective choice, and yet, throughout the week (and long before) I hoped and prayed that I could prove to those judges why they should choose me.
And this time, they did.
While I never expected it, I knew in my heart that the timing was finally right. I felt peace throughout the final night of competition; everything felt like it was falling into place. When they announced my name as “Miss North Dakota 2021” it was the most surreal moment I’ve ever experienced. It was a moment that I had envisioned for years, and when it finally happened… there are no words. I will never be able to effectively articulate the immense gratitude and joy that I felt in that instant.
But that night and every day thereafter I’ve been ready for the unique role and honor of serving as Miss North Dakota.
I am ready to connect and love on people.
I am ready to be inspired by all of the individuals that I’ll be so lucky to meet and grow in relationship with this coming year.
I am ready to share my social impact, “The Influencer Era: Impact Beyond the Screen”, with all people but especially kids — a message about the importance of connecting with one another beyond our devices.
I am deeply grateful and humbled to be in this role and to serve my home, North Dakota, a place that has forever impacted and molded me.
I am ready to impact and be impacted as your Miss North Dakota 2021.
There are many people and groups I would like to thank:
I am SO EXCITED for this year! I am not here because of me. There is a larger plan in place, and I am just a small part of that plan. I am especially thankful to my community; it takes a village, always.
Ok, I’ve said enough for now.
Let’s DO THIS, North Dakota!
Your Miss North Dakota 2021,
currently lives in Fargo, North Dakota where she works remotely as a Policy and Communication Manager for the First Lady of North Dakota. Photography and writing are a passion that help her better appreciate the details of the world.