From a computer to a crown, this pageant contestant gets down to business.
Brandi Schoenberg, 26-year-old Miss North Dakota 2011, lives in Bismarck and works for the North Dakota Department of Commerce as the program manager for Innovate ND.
"The commerce is in charge of promoting North Dakota in a positive way," Schoenberg said. "I do that every time I am out in the public as Miss North Dakota."
On June 19, Schoenberg will represent the state as she competes with 51 women in the Miss USA 60th anniversary pageant at Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. It is a joint venture between Donald J. Trump and NBC Universal. The show will air live on NBC.
"Miss USA is the Super Bowl of all pageants," she said.
After analyzing the other contestants, Schoenberg knows her advantages.
"I have more experience compared to the other competitors because I am older," Schoenberg said. "I am more mature and I look at the pageant in a different light; I know that it's more than a crown, it's an honor and a job opportunity."
If crowned Miss USA, Schoenberg will leave her job in North Dakota and move to New York City. She would work with national, nonprofit charity groups like Gilda's Club, USO and Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
"Organizations usually welcome titleholders with open arms when it comes to volunteering," Schoenberg said. "For whatever reason, when you have a sparkly crown and sash on people are more apt to listen to what you have to say and take notice in what you are doing. I'm always looking for ways to give back to the community."
Her mother and breast cancer survivor, Beth Schoenberg, shares similar beliefs. She serves as a board member for the North Dakota Susan G. Komen for the Cure - an organization her daughter is involved in.
"As the daughter of a survivor, spreading breast cancer awareness is very close to my heart," Brandi Schoenberg said. "Holding the title of Miss North Dakota gives me the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to help in ways I couldn't do otherwise. The experience has made me a better person and has opened my eyes to a lot of things."
Volunteering with the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization, working full-time, staying in-shape and traveling also top Schoenberg's priority list.
"I thrive on keeping busy, and I have learned to acquire great time-management skills," Schoenberg said. "When I am training for pageants, I wake up early in the mornings to fit extra workouts into my hectic schedule. It is a huge challenge for me because I like my sleep, but I know it is all worth it in the end."
Much of Schoenberg's time outside of her workplace is spent preparing for pageants. As she describes "countless hours at the gym" and "working with a team of people." Her team includes walking coaches, make-up artist and image consultant Brenda Torre, and the North Dakota USA state pageant director, Future Productions. Schoenberg strives to appear "flawless" in the three areas of competition: interview, swimsuit and evening gown.
"Pageants promote lifelong skills of self confidence, poise, interviewing and goal setting that benefit women in many ways," Beth Schoenberg said. "It is a positive experience whether you win or lose."
Brandi Schoenberg can empathize on both sides.
"I didn't win Miss North Dakota USA, or any other pageant, on my first try," she said. "I had to work hard, and I learned you need to know how to handle losing with grace and poise before you can ever expect to be a successful winner."
Schoenberg is following her dreams - on stage and in the office.
"I like to set goals," Schoenberg said. "It feels so good and rewarding to accomplish something I set my mind to."
During Schoenberg's four years working at the North Dakota Department of Commerce, the she has seen the launch of nearly 100 new businesses in the state as a result of the Innovate ND program.
"Whether it be in my personal or professional life, I have always been a successful person," Schoenberg said.
If she wins Miss USA in June, Schoenberg will compete for Miss Universe in Brazil. If she loses, she will retire from competing.
"It will be the last pageant that I compete in," Schoenberg said. "However, I do plan on always staying active in the pageant community."
(Jessica Lee is a student at Bismarck High School. She can be reached at 250-8256 or email@example.com)