Hastings native places in top 5 at Miss Minnesota pageant
One year ago, Hastings native Rachel Latuff was winding down from a series of pageants that led her to compete in the Miss Minnesota Scholarship Pageant. She didn’t place last year, and at the time she was leaning toward leaving pageantry behind in order to focus on her new career as an art teacher.
Now, she’s winding down from another run at Miss Minnesota, and this time she has a little more to show for her efforts. She was named fourth runner-up and claimed the Lifestyle and Fitness Award in the process.
Although she originally had decided not to vie for Miss Minnesota again, Latuff wanted the chance to continue the work she’d started on her platform.
“I wanted to see myself grow,” she said.
For the past year, she’s been teaching at North View Junior High in Brooklyn Park. So she entered into the Miss Minneapolis/Miss St. Paul pageant. The top two contestants each earn a crown – one woman represents Minneapolis and one represents St. Paul. Latuff earned the title of Miss St. Paul and got a second shot at Miss Minnesota.
Last year, Latuff chose to promote education and the arts for her pageant platform. This year she’s continuing the work with her platform, “Engage, Educate, Empower: Building Cultural Competency Through the Arts.”
“(It’s about) finding a way for youth to impact the way people think through their artwork,” she said.
She wants to see youth be able to celebrate their culture, she said, and see them and others become more culturally competent.
“My students are a big, big inspiration,” Latuff said, “but I also student-taught abroad.”
When she was overseas, she saw how much culture was celebrated, she said, and how much integrity there was in culture. Coming back to the United States and not seeing that same treatment made her want to push harder for it.
Cultural competence doesn’t have to be complicated. To her, cultural competence simply means having a better awareness about people, not being afraid to ask questions and having an open mind when it comes to people whose cultures differ from one’s own.
She’s already earned some recognition for her efforts. She’s partnered with Healing Minnesota Stories to create an art lesson for her students that encourages youth to create artwork that represents what they feel is important about Minnesota and their own cultures. Ideally, she wants to see her students’ artwork on display at the Minnesota state capital.
The artwork there currently is mostly of Civil War era scenes, mostly depicting Caucasian men or the traditional, historical image of American Indians. That, Latuff said, is dated and only represents a piece of Minnesota’s modern culture.
The students have already been on public display at the Brooklyn Park Community Activity Center, earning Latuff and her students two televised news features on their work.
Latuff took the stage for Miss Minnesota June 11-14. Being a second-time competitor, she found herself in a much better place to bring her best, she said. And since she didn’t have to focus so much on learning the ins and outs of the event, she was able to push herself further in the events.
It started with the interview, which Latuff was thrilled with. The next night she earned the top score in the lifestyle and fitness category and won the award in that event. She said she sees the award not only as a tribute to her own fitness, but helps her be a healthy role model for other teachers.
For the talent event, Latuff performed a ribbon dancing routine, the same talent she showcased last year. Several people have thanked her for continuing to compete with a talent that doesn’t exactly fit within pageant conventions, and the support she’s gotten for continuing to grow as a ribbon dancer has been amazing, she said.
“The growth is what I love the most,” she said.
This fall, Latuff will begin teaching at North Woods School near Duluth, again teaching art to junior high students. Whether or not she’ll pursue the Miss Minnesota crown one final time is a question she doesn’t yet have an answer to.
“My goal was growth and I’ve achieved that goal,” she said.
That said, she’s not entirely ruling out another run for the crown and a shot at the Miss America pageant. Next year would be the last year she would be allowed to compete, since women are not allowed to be 25 years old in the Miss America event. Latuff is 23.
Whether she competes again or not, Latuff’s platform won’t stop, she said. She intends to keep on promoting education and the arts, she said.
For more about her work, go to www.rachellatuff.weebly.com.