The Lamp Beside the Golden Door
Ask most folks in my home state to conjure up an image of Miss Minnesota and they will most probably come up with a tall, blonde, blue-eyed beauty who looks something like this:
Even though I'm not normally a fan of beauty pageants I find this story delightful for a couple of reasons. First, even though Nitaya was initially told when she tried to get a job modeling that she didn't have "the Midwestern look", it shakes loose a few of the stereotypes about what a Minnesota gal headed for Miss America should be. Second, on a larger scale it reminds us that even the American heartland has evolved to become a place rich with diverse immigrant stories. Minnesota, in particular, has a large re-settlement community, with 25%-50% of its immigrants arriving as refugees (as compared with 8% nationally). Home to one of the largest Somali and Hmong communities in the country, Minnesota has made some remarkable demographic changes in the past couple of decades.
Of course, there are still some things that never change, such as Minnesotans' passion for ice hockey. Nitaya, as Miss Minnesota, can be seen here doing her bit for the state by pulling on her woolies and cheering on the team. Go Minnesota!