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Woodbury fifth-grader to compete in national pageant

Bailey Elementary fifth grader Natalie Engh will compete in the National American Miss pageant, in the junior pre-teen division, later this month at Disney Land. (Submitted photo)1 / 2
As part of the National American Miss pageant, Bailey Elementary fifth grader Natalie Engh donated roughly 300 toys to the Children's Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. (Submitted photo)2 / 2

Bailey Elementary fifth grader Natalie Engh saw first-hand what life was like for patients at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

Natalie’s cousin Nathan, just 3 years old, died last year of a heart defect.

“He spent a lot of time in the hospital,” Natalie said, “but they didn’t have lots to do.”

So Natalie took it upon herself to give the patients something to do.

Last week, she donated nearly 300 toys to Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota.

“They’re all really sad because they’re sick and I want to help get that off their mind,” she said. “They should be able to play and have some fun, so hopefully one of those toys will make a child laugh because they aren’t able to do a lot of that.”

Natalie organized the toy drive as part of the National American Miss Pageant – she holds the title of Minnesota Junior Pre-Teen.

The national pageant will be later this month at Disney Land in California.

Natalie will be joined by fellow Woodbury resident Grace Nester who will be competing for the title of National American Miss Princess.

The National American Miss (NAM) pageant is split up into four categories – 30 percent formal wear, 30 percent personal introduction, 30 percent interview and 10 percent community involvement.

It was the focus on the person, not the beauty, that attracted Natalie to the pageant in the first place.

“It wasn’t like a beauty pageant, it was where you meet friends and get more self-confidence,” she said. “You’re not being judged on how pretty you are, it’s how you carry yourself.”

Natalie’s father Mike said he and Natalie’s mom were hesitant at first about letting their daughter participate in a pageant.

“We were cautious about getting into this, but then we saw how much confidence and poise opportunities there were,” he said. “It’s not about what the dress looks like, it’s about the person wearing the dress.”

Natalie said she enjoyed competing in the state pageant because she not only met a lot of friends, but she learned a lot.

“I learned that if you believe in yourself you can accomplish a lot of stuff,” she said. “If you have fears, you know that it’ll go awayonce you try something new.” 

Natalie said she was full of nerves during the pageant, up until they read her name.

“When they announced the top 30, I had lots of flying saucers in my stomach,” she said, “and when they announced the first runner up I totally lost my smile because I was so scared.”

In addition to winning the Junior Pre-Teen division, Natalie also took first place in the optional acting competition.

Even though the pageant itself helped Natalie grow, Mike said it was her community service project and entrance fee fundraising that really helped her grow.

In order to raise the required $450 entrance fee, Natalie went around Woodbury to various businesses seeking donations and sponsorships.

Natalie also went slightly outside her comfort zone for her community involvement project when she had to organize a toy collection drive at Carter’s in Tamarack Village.

Additionally, she solicited donations from other businesses and during Woodbury Community Theatre’s “Putting It Together” musical.

“Just seeing our shopping cart full gave me a really good feeling,” Natalie said.

The national pageant will function similar to the state pageant in that Natalie will compete in formal wear, personal introduction, personal interview and community involvement.

Judges will ask contestants about their favorite colors, books, movies, television shows and animals, in addition to asking about what they want to do when they grow up and why they want to be queen.

Natalie will also be competing in the optional acting and spokesmodel competition.

The acting contest involves reciting a commercial whereas the spokesmodel contest has the contestants give a prepared speech.

If Natalie wins at the national pageant, she could walk away with up to $5,000, a crown, a sash, a trophy and even a Ford Mustang.

She said she might consider competing in NAM again, and Mike is completely OK with that.

“The growth I’ve seen in her is amazing,” he said. “I knew it was in her, but it’s really cool seeing it come out.”

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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