Pastor’s daughter fights for the title

Tim Orland

Residents of Shepard Residential College had a surprise in store for them when they stopped by the laundry room last fall: their Residential Hall Coordinator doing laundry in her heels, practicing falling over and getting up gracefully.

But it’s all part of the regiment of an aspiring Miss America.

Education senior Jennifer Hilde, who captured the title of Miss Twin Cities last November, is now approaching her next hurdle, Miss Minnesota, in late June. From there, the next step would be Miss America in September.

Scholarship money, chances of further careers in the entertainment business and national fame are all possible motivations for women to enter beauty pageants. Hilde’s are somewhat different.

“It’s a really neat way to share my faith in God and to ultimately really help people to make healthier life decisions,” Hilde says.

The Osakis, Minn., native and pastor’s daughter says she utilizes her religious upbringing in the pageant process; her platform for Miss Minnesota will be character education. And she’s not shy about discussing her faith.

“My strategy going in (to Miss Twin Cities) was I didn’t want to try to tell the judges what they wanted to hear because I carry some pretty strong beliefs. That was one of the things the judges said they liked about me is that I was genuine although they didn’t agree with me. I’m not asking people to agree with me, but I won’t back down.”

Hilde, of course, has her own opinion about that ever-controversial swimsuit competition.

“I don’t have a problem walking around on stage in a swimsuit. I understand the concept behind it. Miss Minnesota, Miss America … it’s a job, you’re travelling a lot and they want you to be in good health and physically fit. It’s a lot of hard work to get into shape; it takes discipline and a desire to do it.

“If they want to see if we’re physically fit, the judges should do it behind closed doors. I don’t necessarily need to walk around in front of the whole audience, but I wouldn’t mind doing it in front of a panel of judges.”

Nevertheless, Hilde did walk in her swimsuit for the Twin Cities pageant and will again for the Minnesota pageant.

But more important than how she looks in a two-piece will be her devotion to her platform, which will comprise 40 percent of her score in June, Hilde says

Each contestant is required to have a platform, a specific issue in which they are well-versed and active. Hilde’s is character development. She spends weekends in Minnesota speaking to high school students, and works with youth groups in the Chicago area

On Monday, Hilde spoke at the Melaleuca Freedom Celebration, a Memorial Day festival in St. Paul with an expected crowd of 200,000 people.

Hilde continues to commute to and from the Twin Cities on a weekly basis.

All in all, the process isn’t easy. Hilde has a slew of people helping her prepare for the June pageant, including a private coach, trainer and the four-person committee that puts on the Miss Twin Cities pageant.

Hilde says she is in constant communication with her committee members now that the pageant is less than a month away.

For now, the committee is setting up mock interviews to prepare Hilde for the real thing.

“We bring together people from all over the Twin Cities, and throw a thousand different questions at her prepping her for the competition,” committee member David Shepardson says. “It’s mostly just fine-tuning the interview process; she needs to stay totally on top of current events, anything that happens up to the day of the interview is fair game.”

Hilde says she has been keeping up on the news as best she can.

“I’m reading the BBC and New York Times, listening to NPR,” she says. “I’m watching the news, knowing local news in Minnesota as well as national and international (news).”

And the process isn’t cheap, either.

“It’s very, very expensive,” Hilde says. “There are so many hidden costs, from $75 earrings to $200 pairs of shoes, and you have different pairs of shoes for every outfit, and custom-made gowns. My gown is being made in New York right now and it’s fit exactly to me … every inch of me is measured from waist to hips to chest … no one else is going to be able to wear my gowns or my swimsuit, because they’re tailored exactly to me.”

Hilde has been able to pay for her pageant endeavor thanks to another good turn of fortune; she won $22,800 on a college-edition episode of “Wheel of Fortune” last year, and has used her prize money to fund her clothing, coaching, trainer, travel and other expenses.

“Just when I got the check from ‘Wheel of Fortune,’ I started to prepare for Miss Twin Cities. I would not be able to be in these pageants were it not for ‘Wheel of Fortune’ and the money I won on that show.”

According to one of Hilde’s fellow resident assistants, Education senior Bethany Lanford, Hilde already has an edge going into the pageant.

“It’s innate in her personality; people are drawn to her, and not just her physical beauty,” Lanford says.

And Shepardson says Hilde knows her platform like the back of her hand.

“Basically her whole life has been about character development.” he says.