Miss Midwest: Hastings woman was part of recent Miss Minnesota pageant
Back in high school, Rachel Latuff wasn't thinking much about competing in a pageant. After she graduated from Hastings High School in 2009, she went on to college at the University of Minnesota, Duluth, to study art education. Her goal was to teach art in K-12 schools.
When she was a sophomore in college, she was introduced to the pageant world. There, the Miss Bayfront pageant was held, and the winner had a chance to go on to compete for Miss Minnesota and then Miss America. The next year, she entered the running for Miss Midwest.
"I went out on a limb and did it for fun," she said.
The Miss America organization requires its participants to have a platform - a cause to become an advocate for. Latuff chose education and the arts. In July of 2012, she won the Miss Midwest title. Since then, she's been doing her platform work, going into schools to give lessons and even going overseas to Slovenia, where she represented midwest Minnesota and taught visual arts.
The experience has been a valuable one to her. Latuff said her work over the past year has helped her realize just how much of a passion she has for teaching and the arts. Going overseas showed her more of how the rest of the world works - an especially valuable experience since she's spent most of her life living in Hastings.
On June 15, Latuff appeared on the pageant stage again, this time in the running for Miss Minnesota. Even though she didn't win anything there, it was a life-changing experience, she said.
"It's not about winning, it's about how much you know about yourself," she said.
The week leading up to the pageant, she and the other women competing participated in a series of special events and service projects in the Twin Cities area. Through the whole week and the pageant itself, Latuff was able to build up her self confidence, better understand herself and what she wants to do with her life, she said. She made new friends who hail from all over the state.
One moment that was especially meaningful came after the talent portion of the competition. She didn't win any prizes, but afterwards, a mother and daughter approached Latuff. The daughter was a gymnast, and Latuff's talent - ribbon dancing - had inspired the girl to try ribbon dancing herself.
"You have touched a girl's heart and changed a girl's life," the mother had told Latuff.
Latuff graduated from college in May and will give up her title as Miss Midwest July 12. She'll get a bit of a break for the rest of the summer, and in September she's set to start teaching visual arts to seventh- to ninth-graders at Northview Junior High.
She said she wants to see where that path takes her for now, but she hasn't ruled out another run at earning the Miss Minnesota crown. One of her goals, she said, is to see a Miss Hastings pageant affiliated with the Miss America organization. To that end, she's started trying to get more Hastings girls interested and involved in pageants. Getting a pageant here would require a local committee to gather sponsors, donations and volunteers.
For more about Latuff, visit her website at rachellatuff.weebly.com. For more about the Miss Minnesota pageant, go to www.missminnesota.org. For more about the Miss America organization, go to www.missamerica.org.