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As Mrs. North Dakota America, Manvel woman seeks to inspire others to pursue their American dream, reach full potential

Alexandra Lunseth will compete this week at the Mrs. America pageant in Las Vegas

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Alex Lunseth, Mrs. North Dakota, and her husband, Chris Lunseth, own and operate Lunseth Trucking. Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

In early 2021, a feeling of being “stuck in a rut” prompted Alexandra Lunseth to go in search of something to change her life.

She just wasn’t sure what she was seeking.

“Business was slow because it was the dead of winter (and) my grandfather had passed of COVID in November of 2020,” remembered Lunseth, who owns a trucking company with her husband, Chris, in Manvel. "I was just really depressed and down in the dumps. I thought, 'I need to do something to change my life.' I didn’t know what it was, but I knew it was going to be something amazing.”

She attended conferences and motivational events, “just kind of looking for some self growth and seeing what was out there,” she said. One such event was a Leading Ladies Luncheon, hosted by the North Dakota Women’s Business Center last March in Fargo.

One of the guest speakers was Amy Longtin, former Mrs. North Dakota America, Lunseth remembered. “She was really inspiring and really motivating. She said she was not the typical beauty pageant participant and that anybody can do it. And I thought, well, maybe that’s how I grow as a person: enter a beauty pageant.”

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“I had never even heard about beauty pageants for a married woman," said the Grand Forks native. "You think of toddlers in tiaras and little girls dressing up with too much makeup on. And the reality is, there’s a lot more to it.”

Lunseth, 35, was energized by the women at her table who were “so inspiring and talking about their businesses or where they work, and bouncing ideas off each other about how they could help each other.

“And hearing them speak, I never would have imagined that I could be Mrs. North Dakota. Ever. In my entire life,” she said. “But it just proves that anyone can do anything. You can run a trucking company and be Mrs. North Dakota America – and perhaps Mrs. America.”

It’s been quite a journey for Lunseth, who was crowned Mrs. North Dakota America 2021 in August at the Empire Arts Center in Grand Forks.

Now, she is preparing to represent the state at the Mrs. America pageant Saturday, Nov. 20, in Las Vegas, where she will compete – like she did for the state pageant – in the interview, state costume, swimsuit and evening gown categories.

No one who has worn the crown of Mrs. North Dakota America has ever made it into the top 15 contestants at the national competition, she said. And she’s hoping to change that.

Her platform

At that luncheon last spring, she said, hearing about the beauty pageant “was really intriguing and it was exciting, and I couldn’t wait to find out more,” she said. “And when I did, I realized you can really make a difference.”

She has developed a platform with a primary focus on inspiring others to live their American dream, she said. “For me, it is business ownership, having a large family, and really inspiring others to do whatever (their dream) is.”

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About five years ago, the Lunseths started their trucking business, which employs three full-time and two part-time workers; they’re also raising four children, who range in age from 4 to 13.

As part of her platform work, she’s been interviewing local business owners about what she calls the “struggle to success.” It's project she’s dubbed “Tour of the Red River Valley.” As Mrs. North Dakota, “now it’s ‘Tour of North of Dakota.”

“Starting our own trucking company, it was extremely intimidating. I didn’t know anything about running a business,” she said.

As Mrs. North Dakota America, one of her goals is to spotlight some of many programs that support business start-ups.

‘Perfect timing’

Until last spring, Lunseth had never considered entering a beauty pageant, she said. “I’m not one to get all dolled up or fancy. … (But) coming out of that period of motherhood where your kids are all finally in school, you can go, 'OK, well, wow, my time just freed up, what do I do with myself?'” she said. “So it all kind of fell into place.”

Her husband has been very supportive of her efforts and accomplishments in the pageant world, she said. “He loves it. He likes his title, ‘Mr. North Dakota America.’ He is so proud.”

She recalled that when she first decided to enter the state pageant, “I told him, I think I’m going to do it, but I don’t think I’ll win,” she said. “He said, ‘You don’t know how to lose.’ ”

Lunseth sees “self-growth” as a major benefit of pageant competition.

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“And also, the other side of it is the raising money, the volunteering, and becoming more active in my community, which was one of my goals when starting a business. I had watched multiple business owners in our community be so fortunate to have success and then be able to donate (to nonprofit organizations) … and then inspiring others.

“So that’s why I jumped on the (business ownership) boat in the first place, because I knew that it would lead to the opportunity to help our community and give back. I just didn’t realize at the time it would also tie in with pageantry as well.”

As Lunseth looks forward to national competition Saturday in Las Vegas, she’ll bring the lessons gained from extensive interview preparation, the grace of movement from her dance background and that increased sense of self-confidence, she said.

“I’m just trying to be my authentic self.”

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