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Behind the Crown

By Meg Morley

“The power of the crown is not to be seen, but to make others feel seen.” That is the mission statement of Forevermorley Productions, LLC, the company that directs the Mrs. North Dakota America, Mrs. North Dakota American, and Miss North Dakota for America Strong pageants.

Meg Morley was crowned Mrs. North Dakota America in June 2019 and competed at the Mrs. America pageant in August 2019 in Las Vegas. In March 2020, Meg and her husband, Mike Morley, were offered the opportunity to take over the directorship of the state pageant. After a short discussion, the couple said 'yes' to the director 'positions' and Forevermorley Productions, LLC was born. Within the next few weeks, COVID-19 shut down the entire nation and most of the world.

“It was certainly a challenging first year,” says Meg Morley. “I was finishing my reign as Mrs. North Dakota America, and my sister queens and I learned to pivot rather quickly. We all banded together and shared ideas on how to continue to work our platforms and make appearances from our homes. Our Mrs. America Class of 2019 grew very close, and I am very proud of the accomplishments we all made during such an unprecedented time.”

Trying to plan a state pageant during a global pandemic as new directors was an even bigger challenge. “For everyone’s safety, and because of COVID-related restrictions, we were unable to host an in-person state pageant,” says Mike Morley. “Obviously, this was a disappointment to our contestants, but we were happy to virtually crown three great queens.” The 2020 royalty were: Mrs. North Dakota America, Amy Longtin; Mrs. North Dakota American, AnneMarie Studer; and Miss North Dakota for America Strong, Shawnee Kaseman. After several schedule changes, the queens were able to compete in Las Vegas, in March 2021, at their respective national pageants. Mike and Meg Morley commend the national director/owner, Elaine Marmel, and the national vice-president of Mrs. America, Tana Johnson, for their amazing leadership and commitment to the health and safety of all the contestants, staff, and spectators. Despite COVID regulations, the queens got to compete onstage in front of an audience, were able to spend the week at the Westgate Resort and Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, and be treated like royalty with their sister queens from across the country.

In August 2021, Forevermorley Productions, LLC was able to host their very first in-person pageant at the local Empire Arts Center. “This was a dream come true for us,” says Meg Morley. “We had wonderful contestants competing and we were able to award six titles. It was a ton of work and yes, some stressful moments occurred, but that’s show biz!” The Morleys give a lot of credit to their amazing contestant coordinator and head stylist, Emily Crothers. “Without Emily, we wouldn’t be able to put on our show – she is definitely irreplaceable and a genius at quieting the chaos that naturally comes with a live production.”

The 2021 royalty are: Mrs. North Dakota America, Alexandra Lunseth; Mrs. North Dakota American, McKenzie Blumhagen; Miss North Dakota for America Strong, Laura Kleihauer; Junior Teen for North Dakota, Emma Jo Korynta; Junior Miss for North Dakota, Sawyer Belcourt; and Little Miss for North Dakota, Rorie Christenson. Queen Alexandra, Queen McKenzie, and Queen Laura have all been doing amazing things during their reigns – working their platforms, volunteering in their communities, advocating for the pageant’s national philanthropy, “Victoria’s Voice,” and, above all else, making others feel seen. “Meg and I are consistently impressed by the high caliber women who become a part of this pageant organization. These are smart, accomplished, and wonderful ladies who are a credit to the State of North Dakota. Our queens garner national attention and we couldn’t be prouder to be their directors,” says Mike Morley. “The 2021 queens competed in Las Vegas in November, and they all did absolutely phenomenal.”

The next state pageant is scheduled for May 22, 2022, again at the Empire Arts Center. The criteria to compete in the Mrs. North Dakota America and Mrs. North Dakota American division is that the contestant must

be a resident of North Dakota, they must be over the age of 18, and they must be legally married. For the Miss North Dakota for America Strong division, the contestant must be a resident of North Dakota, over the age of 18, and unmarried. That includes being divorced or widowed, and you may have children. This is to give all women more opportunities to shine and not put limits on who may or may not compete. In addition, Junior Queen titles are available for ages 5-17. The junior queens’ titles are nonbinding and they do not compete at a national pageant. “We want everyone to experience the excitement and fun of pageantry. The sisterhood bonds that form are very strong, and we love watching everyone gain stage experience and self-confidence. Our queens and contestants all encourage each other, and every win is celebrated by all,” says Meg Morley.

The contestants for Mrs. North Dakota America, Mrs. North Dakota American, and Miss North Dakota for America Strong compete in the areas of photogenic, interview, swimsuit, state costume, and evening gown. The junior queens are the same, except that instead of swimwear, the contestants model their favorite activewear. Mike and Meg both say that 'state costume' is their favorite event, at both the state and the national pageant, because it is the time that the contestants really let their imagination and love for their state shine. In the past several years, the queens have represented everything from a cowgirl, to a UND Fighting Hawks hockey player, to this year’s snow angel, Golden Wheat, and the beautiful Western Meadowlark.

The Morleys are looking forward to another exciting in-person pageant this year, and are especially excited to have three Grand Forks contestants competing: Mrs. Grand Forks America 2022, Klaudia Holkup; Mrs. Red River Valley America 2022, Jessica Rerick; and Miss Grand Forks for America Strong 2022, Sarah Malsom.

Forevermorley Productions, LLC is committed to utilizing locally owned businesses for their pageant vendors and sponsors. The company utilizes local photographers, florists, light and sound pros, boutiques, and more. “We are so grateful for the support of our community partners,” said Meg. “Without them, the pageant wouldn’t be as grand as it is.” G

// To view the full story, check out the digital issue here

From Issue 1, 2022

PHOTOS By ForEverMorley Productions, LLC


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