MINNESOTA NATIONAL AMERICAN MISS 2013: Sofia Boda, Kayela Steiner, and Victoria Tritton, (Madeleine Danzberger-First Runner-up)
Faith Schway Gets Rave Reviews in the July 2009 Pioneer Press. Read the article below!
Who should wear the crown? Faith Schway has a knack for making pageant winners
It wasn't that long ago that Faith Schway stepped into a soup-and-sandwich restaurant and cornered a future Miss USA contestant. With a little cajoling, a star was born among the crusty French breads.
Schway, who has been coaching beauty pageant contestants for 27 years, handpicked Eagan's Kaylee Unverzagt to compete in the Miss Minnesota Teen USA contest in 2005. Unverzagt came in second place and later entered the Miss Minnesota USA pageant, which she won in 2008.
She went on to place in the top 15 last year in the national Miss USA pageant, held in Las Vegas.
"I discovered her in Panera Bread in Eagan," Schway said. "She was sitting in the corner eating, and I said, 'You need to be in this pageant.' She was in disbelief. She said: 'I've never done anything like that. I can't do that.' I said, 'Oh, yes, you can.' "
Said Unverzagt: "I thought the idea just sounded completely crazy. I was like, 'Yeah, OK, lady.' ... It was never something, as I grew up, that I had always wanted to do."
It was hardly the first time that Schway, of Mendota Heights, has turned a pageant newcomer into a celebrity in the rough. A former Mrs. Minnesota-America, Schway is a big reason so many young women from the southern suburbs have recently swept up statewide pageant titles and gone on to national competitions.
You might call her the "beauty whisperer."
Since 2006, three Eagan women have made it to the nationally televised Miss America or Miss USA pageants (yes,
they are different contests). And all three have been armed with the same weapon: Schway's coaching.
Schway, who runs the Premiere School of Self-Improvement and Professional Modeling Inc. in St. Louis Park, said she has landed winners in the Miss Minnesota USA or Miss Minnesota Teen USA pageants almost every year of her career. In 11 instances, Schway's clients have won both contests in the same year.
"You have to be able to see the potential in people, even when doing a pageant is the farthest thing from their mind," Schway said. "If you have the raw ingredients, you can develop it."
Brooke Kilgarriff, a student of musical theater at the Boston Conservatory and former contestant on "American Idol," won the Miss Minnesota crown June 20. In January, she'll compete in the Miss America pageant in Las Vegas.
Kilgarriff said that on many nights Schway has stopped by her Eagan home at 10 p.m. and coached her until 2 a.m. The two women have spent weekends together, training during Kilgarriff's visits home from Boston.
"She's given me clothes out of her closet, off her back, to prepare for this pageant," said Kilgarriff, who has been working with Schway for six years. "She is an incredible woman, and I would not be Miss Minnesota without her. For each individual title-holder, she gives you individual attention. ... She's the best."
A year after working with Schway, Eagan's Dottie Cannon won Miss Minnesota USA in 2006, and went on to win the Miss Congeniality award at the Miss USA pageant that April.
After about a dozen hours of Schway's instruction, pageant newcomer Vanessa Johnston, of Lakeville, was crowned Miss Minnesota Teen USA in November. Johnston, a rising senior at Lakeville South High School, will leave for the national Miss Teen USA competition at the Atlantis Resort in the Bahamas on July 27.
Johnston, 17, said that with encouragement from her father, she applied to the contest on a whim, but she hadn't expected to win. She credits Schway's guidance with sealing the title.
"She was really, really good," Johnston said. "I had already learned a lot from being on the debate and speech team at school. I was already concise ... but working with a coach, you focus more on making (your verbal presentation) fun."
"You want (the judges) to think that you're their best friend in a matter of minutes," Johnston continued. "You need to be able to open yourself up, and you want them to be open to you. ... And that's not something that people our age really know. We're used to establishing friendships over a long period of time."
For the state competition, Johnston appeared onstage in a swimsuit and evening gown she rented from Faith's Closet, a new clothing-rental business Schway opened in recent months.
"I've had 10 people standing on the stage in my clothes at one time," said Schway, who has lent out more dresses than she can track.
Schway, who directs the Mrs. Minnesota-America pageant and pageants for Iowa, Wisconsin and Georgia, among others, was a Minnesota Vikings cheerleader with the St. Louis Park Parkettes from 1967 to 1970.
She graduated from the University of Minnesota magna cum laude in fashion merchandising in 1974 and then worked for Dayton's department stores in downtown Minneapolis and Southdale until her first child was born in 1977. She won Mrs. Minnesota-America in 1985, and began directing the pageant in 1990.
She lives with her husband, St. Paul attorney Carl Schway, who co-directs pageants with her. They have two adult sons.
The southern Twin Cities suburbs have been well-represented at statewide pageants.
Suburban standouts include Brooke Kilgarriff, of Eagan, who won the Miss Minnesota crown on June 20 and will compete for the national title of Miss America in January; Jennifer Hudspeth, of Apple Valley, who was Miss Minnesota in 2007; and Nicole Swanson, of Lakeville, who was Miss Minnesota in 2006.
Kaylee Unverzagt, of Eagan, won the Miss Minnesota USA crown in 2008 and Dottie Cannon, also of Eagan, won it in 2006.
Miss Minnesota Teen USA winners from the east metro suburbs are numerous. They are Vanessa Johnston, of Lakeville, in 2009; Vanessa Vonbehren, of Apple Valley, in 2007; Amy Blue, of Anoka, in 2006; Allison Arling, of Lakeville, in 2004; Kristin Swoboda, of White Bear Lake, in 2003; Jennifer Jones, of Lakeville, in 2000; and Kristen Hilgenberg, of Lakeville, in 1998.
Winners of the Mrs. Minnesota International title have included Leisha Gust, of Burnsville, in 2008; Nancy Paradeise, of Apple Valley, in 2004; and Pamela Finley, of Apple Valley, in 2002.
Minnesotans have won the Miss America crown three times. Fox News host Gretchen Carlson, of Anoka, won the national competition in 1989; Dorothy Benham, of Edina, won in 1977; and Beatrice Bella Shopp, of Hopkins, was crowned in 1948.
Juliana Gabor, a former Miss South St. Paul who won the Miss Minnesota crown in 1970, died of cancer last month, five days before Kilgarriff won the state title. During the contest, a moment of silence was observed in her memory.
— Frederick Melo
FAITH HAS A DOUBLE WIN!! MISS MINNESOTA AMERICA 2009, BROOKE KILGARRIFF. BROOKE ALSO WON THE TALENT COMPETITION AND MISS MINNESOTA USA 2009, ERICA NEGO!
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