Pageantry with a purpose

Minnesota Miss Amazing pageant takes place this Saturday

Senior and co-director of the Minnesota Miss Amazing Pageant Jordan Crosser assembles trophies in her apartment in Uptown on Monday evening in preparation Saturday's event.

Liam James Doyle

Senior and co-director of the Minnesota Miss Amazing Pageant Jordan Crosser assembles trophies in her apartment in Uptown on Monday evening in preparation Saturday’s event.

Jackie Renzetti

Around the clock, Jordan Crosser is making people feel amazing. Whether it be with a crown on their head or simple compliment, the University of Minnesota student is giving back.

Of her many jobs, she directs Minnesota’s Miss Amazing pageant, which celebrates the abilities of girls with special needs and awards people based on self-improvement. This month, Crosser will be awarded the University’s President’s Student Leadership and Service Award after gaining a thick portfolio of service work.

The bachelor of individualized studies psychology, theatre and American Sign Language senior brought the pageant to Minnesota three years ago and continues to lead it. Title-holders from each state progress to the national pageant.

Over the years, the number of Minnesota Miss Amazing participants has more than tripled. This year, Crosser added a co-director and organized a board of directors to meet the event’s growing needs.

Miss Amazing originated in 2007 in Nebraska with activist Jordan Somer. A few annual pageants later, TeenNick awarded Somer with their “Halo” award, garnering the program national attention. The pageant is now a nonprofit organization that spreads across nearly thirty states.

“It’s really amazing how it’s become something so much bigger than me, so much bigger than my community,” Somer said. “It’s all because of volunteers like Jordan Crosser.”

While attending a pageant as Miss Teen Iowa World 2010, Crosser heard about the Miss Amazing program. After returning home, she found it online and contacted Somer about getting involved. When Somer offered her the position for the state director of Minnesota, Crosser accepted.

“It’s literally the craziest thing I’ve ever done in my life and also the most rewarding,” Crosser said.

The annual pageant consists of three portions: an introduction, an interview and an evening wear segment, with an optional fourth talent category. Each of the activities aim to help the girls bolster skills in public speaking, confidence and relationship building.

Rather than competing against each other for titles, the girls compete against themselves, Crosser said. Girls earn titles based on their demonstration of self-improvement over the course of the pageant, and all girls walk away with a crown for their participation.

The titleholders and participants also fundraise and volunteer year-round with Crosser. Past activities have included making blankets for the Children’s St. Paul Pediatric Hospital, marching in the March of Dimes and helping at the Color Run.

“Their whole lives, more or less, they’ve had people volunteering for them. This is their chance to say, ‘No, I am a valuable member of my community,’ and … stand up for what they believe in. It’s really neat to see them in that capacity,” Crosser said.

Crosser said though the media generally presents pageant competitors as mean, they’re usually not. Also, Miss Amazing differs from typical pageants because the girls are only scored against themselves.

“It’s a pageant because there is no other opportunity that builds quite the same skill set,” Crosser said.

In addition to leading Miss Amazing, Crosser works at ACR Homes Healthcare Group, a residential support service for people with disabilities. She’s held the job since her first year in college, and after realizing that she enjoys it, she switched majors so she could serve people with special needs.

This year, she began volunteering for a creative arts internship at ACR, in which she helps residents photograph and paint. She also stage manages a play for her co-worker’s internship project.

“It almost makes you feel inadequate next to her, because she is like Wonder Woman, seriously. She does so many different things, and they are all just so incredible,” said Anne Marie Keating, co-director of Minnesota Miss Amazing. “Any time I get an email at three o’ clock in the morning from Jordan, I just think, ‘Wow, she is working endlessly on this thing.’”

Crosser plans to attend graduate school for creative arts therapy in the future. Until then, she plans to stay in the area and direct Minnesota Miss Amazing.

“I’m very open to anything that will come my way. I’m not a person who says no a lot. I believe in the word ‘yes,’ and I believe that it takes you to such amazing places,” Crosser said.

 

What: Miss Amazing: Minnesota

Where: O’Shaughnessy Educational Center at the University of St. Thomas, 2115 Summit Ave., St. Paul

When: 6 p.m. Saturday

Cost: $10