Meet Natalie Davis: Miss Minnesota 2011

Natalie Davis ’12 never thought she would be a pageant girl. “When I was 14 or 15, it was my dream to try acting,” said the senior. “I considered moving to LA to be with my older sister. I think pageants were a way for my mother to keep me closer to home.” 

While Natalie’s mother certainly achieved her goal of keeping Natalie in Minnesota, she certainly did nothing to squash her dreams of stardom. This year, Natalie was crowned Miss Minnesota 2011 and will be competing at the Miss America pageant in Las Vegas this January. 

The whole experience has sent Natalie spinning into a world of gowns and interviews, awards and sparkle, and yet the senior says: "while the opportunity to perform started my passion for pageants, it is the impact I am now having on my community that makes it worth it." Natalie has used her position to gain recognition for her platform on Autism Awareness, a passion that is also reflected here on the St. Olaf Campus. Natalie's brother, Trevor, has an Autism Spectrum Disorder called Asperger's Syndrome, which led Natalie to found Awesome Club here in Northfield when she got to college. Awesome Club serves over 20 students in the Northfield area with Autism Spectrum Disorder by connecting them with college students to help them work on social skills.  Natalie believes that "it is valuable for us to work with kids like this and helps change our perspectives." Since her campaign began, Natalie has become an official spokesperson for both the Autism Society of Minnesota and the Autism Society of America. 

But while Natalie is deeply focused on her community service work, she cannot deny that she loves the glamorous part of being Miss Minnesota. "There were absolutely zero lows to the whole experience," she laughs. "The women were amazing and so supportive. There was absolutely no cattiness." This was the actually the second time that Natalie had tried for the crown. Her first attempt was when she was 19, and then she skipped a year to focus on school. "Organic chemistry required ALL of my time!" she said.

And indeed, it's hard to remember that beyond all of the glitz and glamour, Natalie is still a student in college. She's a senior this year, and thankfully ahead enough in school that she can manage to be a part-time student while still attending to her Miss Minnesota duties (which counts for an Academic Internship - who knew!). And if that isn't enough, she plans to graduate on time and still apply to medical school in hopes of becoming a pediatrician someday. And if that doesn't work out, Natalie is not worried. "The Miss America program has given me the tools I need to become an effective public speaker," she says. "That's applicable to any field, especially business." Indeed, Natalie loves the spotlight. She was asked to be the emcee at numerous local and national pageants, and, closer to home, was a member of the St. Olaf Chapel Choir. "I was supposed to be Vice President of Chapel Choir this year," she said, "but obviously I had to give that up. I miss it so much!" 

The musical skills Natalie learned here at St. Olaf have helped her in the pageant world as well. She has created a CD to help her raise funds for the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals (raising funds for the network is required of all Miss America contestants) entitled Sweet Dreams, which can be purchased on her website (listed below).  For the Miss Minnesota competition, she sang "Nessun Dorma" by Giacamo Puccini, and actually won the preliminary talent portion of the competition. She also won the preliminary swimsuit competition for Miss Minnesota, and is a Miss American Community Service Award recipient. 

Her advice for St.  Olaf women? "Get involved in the Miss America program!" And while that may seem like something she is supposed to say as a Miss America contestant, it is obvious that she truly means it. As the leading scholarship program for women, it has distributed over 45 million dollars in scholarship assistance just in the last year. "It has helped me grow so much more than anything else I have ever been involved in. I wish everyone would get involved. We have so much talent to share here at St. Olaf, it seems like a pity to NOT share it."

If any St. Olaf student has questions about the Miss America program, or wants to get more involved with Natalie and her Autism campaign, they are encouraged to e-mail her at the address listed in the campus directory. She also encourages everyone to visit her blog (http://nataliedavis.weebly.com/blog.html), as well as her facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/missminnesota2011/nataliedavis#!/pages/Miss-Minnesota-2011-Natalie-Davis/277665182248060) and follow her on twitter (http://twitter.com/#!/MissMN2011). 

And DON'T forget to cheer on Natalie as she competes for Miss America on January 14!