Freelance photographer, Sarah Morreim, went on assignment to capture Miss Minnesota, Rachel Latuff, at the 2016 Miss America pageant in Atlantic City.
During last week’s preliminary competition, Sarah was able to sit down with Rachel for a few minutes to talk about her experience at Miss America.
Q: Not everyone knows that each Miss America contestant has a personal platform she advocates throughout her year as a state titleholder. Can you tell me more about your platform?
A: I am a visual arts teacher at a high school in Northern Minnesota and my platform is titled “The Heart of Learning: Providing What Our Classrooms Need.” There are three facets to my platform: Acceptance, Affirmation and Empowerment. My platform promotes acceptance of youth for who they are, affirming the value of teachers in the lives of youth and in the community and empowering teachers. The Miss America system provides a forum to advance each of these key elements, particularly to empower teachers. If crowned Miss America, I will use the Miss America platform to put teachers in the spotlight.
Q: What is it like to perform at Boardwalk Hall?
A: The stage is bigger than I thought it would be, but it’s invigorating. You feel the presence of the audience in a big way.
Q: You competed in the talent portion of the competition the first night of preliminaries. Can you tell me more about your talent, a contemporary ribbon dance?
A: I’m so excited because I was able to perform a talent that is a first for the Miss America stage. My version of the ribbon dance is very contemporary and modern. One of the qualities that I always want to bring to my role as Miss Minnesota is being creative and artistic; this is why I feel my talent really showcases the type of person that I am. It’s much more then just a performances to me. My dance represents who I would be as Miss America. I show my heart on stage.
Q: What about the Miss America program most inspires you?
A: The Miss America program inspires and builds my integrity and character every day. It allows me to platform a cause. It does it in a way that we as titleholders feel empowered by at the same time. I wouldn’t have the job I do today if it weren’t for the Miss America system. It’s prepared me to be the professional that I am.
Q: Competing at Miss America is a once in a lifetime experience. Is there a particular moment that you will remember most?
A: Yes—when I ended my talent, while I held the last pose I thought to myself, “I just did this.” Even after people tore me down for it, and didn’t think it was good enough, I had the courage to reveal my heart and soul on that stage. I was not afraid to be vulnerable in my talent.
Q: What lessons have you learned these last two weeks at Miss America that you’d want to bestow onto your students back home?
A: That nothing defines them. No stereotype. Not where they live. And that there’s nothing you can’t do if you put your mind to it. Now they’ve seen me do this. I didn’t win the first or even the second time I competed for the title of Miss Minnesota. I “failed” twice, but then I came back and won. They’ll see that I’m still positive about it and I’m still me. They’re on this journey with me. I hope my journey fuels their fire for what they want to do in life because ultimately my role as Miss Minnesota is to inspire people.