Junior Natalie Barnes will be running for Miss Minnesota International in March, and in doing so she aims to dismantle the stereotypes and fallacies about pageants.
Barnes currently has the title of Miss Litchfield (her hometown) and Miss Meeker County International, which is part of the reason she was eligible to compete in the Miss Minnesota International pageant.
Despite the fact that there are big misconceptions about the pageant world, Barnes isn’t afraid to be herself. The international pageant system is platform-based. According to Barnes, the focus is not on who has the prettiest smile or walks the best, which was something which drew her to this system.
“I’m not a super girly person. I don’t wear makeup every day. I don’t own foundation. I don’t go tanning,” she said. “I fit in the system because I’m passionate about my platform and volunteering, which is something they really push.”
Barnes said that although joining this competition was a long time coming for her, other people are surprised and sometimes shocked when they hear that she competes in pageants.
“When most people look at me or find out that I’m doing a major pageant, they’re like ‘You are? You’re short. You’re not the skinniest person alive. You don’t wear makeup. You wear cheap clothes,’” she said. “Because of the misconceptions people have about pageants, they’ll look down on me since I don’t fit that mold.”
In order to stay organized, Barnes relies heavily on her Concordia planner. Her days are usually packed with classes, events on campus, involvement in various clubs across campus, working, and volunteering at night. She said it helps that she’s not a procrastinator, and she has a great support system.
“I have my mom to keep me in line,” she said with a laugh. “My boyfriend is really good at keeping me positive and on task. It’s easy to focus on something you want to focus on, but then there’s always something that you need to do for tomorrow.”
The topic of stereotypes can be a touchy subject, according to Barnes, because although most girls don’t fulfill the beauty pageant “mold,” she has encountered some women who do.
“I was with some of them and I was taking a picture of the two girls,” she said. “One of them said ‘Put your hand on your hip; it makes you look better.’ I wanted to bonk her on the head and say, You are fulfilling every stereotype!’”
Barnes said that she will have to conform a little more than she would like just to not stand out in a bad way. One way to avoid that conformity involved her expenses. She talked to her coach and told her she wasn’t going to spend $2,000 on a formal dress.
“I feel like I’m doing myself the justice by not going over the top,” she said. “I can prove I’m just as good as anyone else with borrowing or spending very minimal amounts. I can do just as well as you but I don’t have to be materialistic about it.”
Barnes is no stranger to bargain shopping in her normal life as well.
“I have no doubt that I can look and perform just as good while just staying true to myself and doing my clearance shopping and borrowing from friends,” she said. “I’m totally a bargain shopper. A lot of my wardrobe I’ve gotten for very reasonable prices, like a $40 suit as compared to a $600 suit.”
Some girls like to shop at pageant shops in preparation for events like this, but Barnes said it’s a mindset to buy things that are really expensive. Rather than doing that, she stuck to going her own way and finding bargains wherever she could.
“The nice thing about the stuff I did get is I’ll be able to reuse it,” she said. “And I love dresses; that’s one girly thing about me. I’m making use of the money and the object itself.”
The entry fee to get into the pageant and get the information with all the pageant details was $755, and the fee to stay in the hotel the weekend of the pageant will be around $250. Those costs have been inevitable for the economical Barnes, so she made cuts in other areas to save money.
She’s spent $400 on clothing, and just over $100 on coaching. Most of her expenses have been for traveling since most of the pageant events are focused out of the Twin Cities. She does a lot of driving back and forth, and this will continue until March.
Other ways Barnes is saving money is by having a high school friend do her hair for the weekend. Though she will pay her friend, a lot of other girls will be paying $500 to get their hair and makeup done for the weekend. Other issues for her involve tattoos and tanning.
“I also have tattoos, so covering them up will be a pain,” she said. “I will probably just do the spray tan [as well]. I’m a little whitey from the North.”
This is a big financial endeavor and Barnes admits she wasn’t fully aware of this before she got into it. Since she is from a small town, she was able to help get a lot of sponsorship money from the local business owners she’s known for a while.
“It’s spendy but I know for a fact that I am spending a lot less money than the other girls,” she said.
Barnes doesn’t fit the stereotypical mold of a pageant contestant: she’s the youngest in her family and she has two older brothers, so growing up with that influence, according to Barnes, really shaped who she is as a person.
“I would much rather sit around with a bunch of guys and play video games than go shopping,” she said. “I do not own foundation. I’m just me. I just put clothes on that I’ve had for forever or were super cheap. I don’t wear makeup often. I like to be comfy.”
Barnes’s coach told her height would be a disadvantage for her since she reigns in at 5-feet-6-inches.
“Why does how tall you are affect how you can represent your platform and Minnesota?” Barnes said.
Barnes said she’s been struggling with that statement on itself.
“I’ll stick out because I can almost guarantee I’ll be the shortest one there,” she said. “What does that have to do with how well I can speak in front of people?”
Barnes’ platform involves the VH1 Save the Music foundation, so she’s been focusing on raising awareness of that foundation. Music had a huge impact on her life, and she thinks people should have the opportunity to pursue music if they want to.
If she were to win Miss Minnesota International, Barnes wants to go on a tour of schools to make sure they keep their music programs alive. One major goal she has for the future entails helping to fund a music program at a school that doesn’t have one with help from this foundation.
“It’s not just showing up and folding papers in half,” she said with a laugh. “I’m doing stuff and making a difference.”
Being involved with this foundation has pushed Barnes to become more involved with volunteering, which is a large part of the international pageant system. She has done work with Feed My Starving Children, a polo tournament for children’s cancer research, GoRed for Women, Dorothy Day and a few other organizations.
Juniors Anna Haugo and Kirsten Rosenow went to high school with Barnes and competed with her in the Miss Litchfield pageant. According to Haugo, Barnes is very outgoing and has positive spirits.
“She always has something to smile about,” Haugo said. “Her laugh is infectious.”
Both girls feel Barnes will do really well in the pageant, and they aren’t surprised that she is running.
“She’s such a genuine person,” Rosenow said. “People like her I feel are hard to find. She’s so passionate about things and people.”
Haugo thinks the judges will like Barnes because of how true she is to herself.
“She carries herself really well but it’s not like a picture she puts up,” she said. “It’s gonna be totally her and they’re gonna like her.”
Senior Lyndsi Tufte, president of Lamda Delta Sigma, has worked with Barnes a lot this year to involve LDS in her experience.
“She has put quite a bit of effort into making a difference through her pageant,” Tufte said. “Not only has she been doing events on her own around her hometown and in the cities as well as Fargo-Moorhead, but she is also involving LDS in her efforts through events like GoRed, which is going on today all over the country.”
Barnes hosted a GoRed party with materials to educate a group of women about the GoRed for Women movement.
“As a friend and as a member of LDS, Natalie is full of energy and really passionate about her ideas,” Tufte said. “She reaches out to her close friends in addition to working for the good of complete strangers.”
I’m a senior at Concordia graduating in May with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism. Journalism is my life and my passion, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.