With no previous interest, after a flier was sent out to 4-H students about five years ago regarding the upcoming Miss Becker County Fair pageant, Siri Freeh went ahead and tried it.
That first year, in 2005, she was crowned Jr. Miss Becker County Fair. Two years later, she was crowned Miss Becker County Fair. Less than two weeks ago, she was crowned Miss West Metro.
"When I first saw the flier and this pageant thing, I thought, 'ugh.' Pageants aren't my thing," she said. "I really don't feel comfortable doing that sort of thing."
Her family encouraged her to give it a try and she did. She didn't think she'd find success, but with only four pageants under her belt, she has three crowns to match.
After the Miss Becker County Fair win, she said some people asked her to get involved in the Miss Minnesota system, but she decided to take a year off from competing because at that point she was a freshman in college and wanted to concentrate on that instead.
"I wanted to take each new experience as it comes and just get used to that first before I jump into this," she said.
Then last September, during her sophomore year at North Dakota State University, she ran in the Miss Moorhead pageant and took first runner-up. She enjoyed the experience with the Miss MN system, so she competed in the Miss West Metro pageant next -- and won.
Unlike most pageants, the Miss West Metro pageant is open to any participant living, working or attending school in Minnesota.
Freeh, who is from Lake Park, is attending NDSU for nursing and plans to attend graduate school for nurse practitioner and eventually do some international work.
There's a thought in pageants that to be successful, women have to live up to a certain idea or perfectionism, she said. But that's not necessarily the case.
"I've done these pageants though and the more you tell yourself that you are, the more successful you will be in them. That's what they are looking for, young women who are focused on pursuing their personal best," she said. "Not trying to be something they're not."
Freeh's success comes in her platform on volunteering called Compass of Compassion.
"It's about really encouraging students to develop compassion through service work and volunteerism in the community."
So what she's done is go talk to students, getting them interested in volunteering and helping link them to the right charity. She herself has volunteered for quite a few different charities.
Freeh's experience with volunteerism started when she was at Park Christian School.
"What they required was 80 hours of volunteerism in the course of one year," she said. "What I really appreciated about that, it was 80 hours which can seem like a lot, but it actually required me throughout the year to be doing something instead of cramming it into a couple days."
Freeh said the experience helped her grow as a person and realize the deeper needs in her community. It helped her look past herself and see what she needed to do for others.
Her volunteerism has included the Salvation Army, AARC in Moorhead, Samaritan's Purse and Riding on Angels' Wings, her favorite.
For her talent at the pageants, she does a lyrical ballet.
"I love dance. For me, it's the ability to really connect with the audience and express emotions the singer is trying to communicate," she said. "It's a visual representation of what the singer is trying to communicate."
For the Miss Minnesota pageant this summer, Freeh is already working on the details. The pageant system puts a lot of emphasis on the contestants' platforms, and this year they are all raising money for the Children's Miracle Network as well.
"What I really like about that is it's not just 'here let's write out a certain donation.' Instead, you're bringing awareness at the same time while you're raising money," she said.
They also work on the on- and off-stage interviews and on the talent portion. It's a lot of prep, she said, but it's items that help throughout life, not just for the pageant.
"I heard someone else say this once and I completely agree: It seems that the local pageants you get more nervous about, just to be able to qualify for Miss MN. It's like once you accomplish that, you have something to go off of."
After all the preparation, once she gets to the Miss Minnesota stage, it's like, "I'm just going to go out there and do my best."