After watching their former Woodbury Dance Center teacher and Nora's current pageant coach Mary Swenson win the Miss Minnesota International title in 2011, Woodbury residents Lauren Disher and Nora Zimmerman were inspired to create their own legacy.
Nora, a junior at Woodbury High School, now holds the 2020 National American Miss Minnesota Junior Teen title; and Lauren, a freshman at New York Conservatory for Dramatic Arts, holds the 2020 National American Miss Minnesota Teen title.
As part of the National American Miss program, the two went to Orlando, Fla. in November to compete for national titles in their divisions, where they competed against girls from almost all 50 states.
Often misconceived as a beauty contest, Swenson emphasizes that these pageants are actually a way of developing self-confidence and lifelong skills, bringing her to find Confidence and Poise, a pageant training business.
“It is not just looking cute and wearing pretty things,” Swenson says. “It is being real substantial women that want to make a difference.”
Shining a spotlight on the power of the art, Lauren’s platform focuses on education and the support of fine arts. Advocating through social media campaigns, she promoted National Arts Humanities Month in October by highlighting art centers to visit and provided sources to donate to.
“[Fine arts] pretty much shapes the person that I am today,” she says. “My biggest thing is educating on how important the arts are to the economy and to our society as a whole.”
In addition to her social advocacy, Lauren also works with Breanna’s Gift, a Minnesota-based nonprofit that seeks to provide performing arts experiences and workshops for children in long-term care at hospitals.
- Placed in the top five twice for the Miss Minnesota Teen U.S.A. Pageant title
- Won the National American Miss Junior Teen title in 2017
Advocating for mental health, Nora’s platform focuses on promoting positivity and minimizing the stigma surrounding it. Starting her own social media campaign on Instagram called #MentalHealthMondays she educates her followers through a variety of infographics, words of encouragement and promotional events. Nora has also garnered monetary donations, raising over $1,000 for The National Alliance on Mental Illness Minnesota Chapter.
As one who has struggled with anxiety herself, Nora wants others to know that they are not alone.
“It makes it so much easier to get through something knowing you are not the only one,” she says. “I just want the conversation around it to be normalized.”
- Miss NorthStar State Sweetheart title in 2014