Rutgers beauty wins Miss Norway of Greater New York title
A young woman who was born on the day the Winter Olympics began in Lillehammer in 1994 has been crowned as Miss Norway of Greater New York 2015.
Lauren Benson, 21, a junior at Rutgers University, wowed the judges with her beauty and poise as well as her charitable endeavors. The contest took place at the Norwegian Christian Home and Health Center at 1250 67th St. in Dyker Heights on March 28.
Sponsored by the Norwegian Immigration Association, the Miss Norway contest celebrated its 60th Anniversary this year. The contest is designed to highlight the beauty, accomplishments and Norwegian heritage of young women, organizers said. Young women between the ages of 16 and 24 with Norwegian ancestry are eligible.
Benson beat out 11 other contestants for Miss Norway and won the grand prize, an all-expenses-paid trip to Norway this summer. She cried tears of joy when Contest Co-Chairman Arlene Rutuelo announced her as the winner. Jillian McDonald, Miss Norway of Greater New York for 2014, placed the crown on Benson’s head.
For the first time this year, the judges also handed out a Miss Heritage of Greater New York title to honor a contestant who demonstrated knowledge of Norwegian traditions. That title went to Britt Henricksen, 23, a special education teacher from Roxbury, N.Y., who impressed the judges by telling the panel that she always finds ways to incorporate her Norwegian heritage into her everyday life.
The contest also serves as the start of a celebratory season for Brooklyn’s Norwegian-American community, a season that culminates in the 17th of May Parade on Third Avenue in Bay Ridge. The parade is held every year to commemorate the signing of the Norwegian Constitution in 1814.
As Miss Norway, Benson will be a guest of honor at the big march, riding the parade route in a convertible.
The Miss Norway contest has two parts. Each contestant is first given the opportunity to introduce herself to the judges and the audience and speak for three minutes. The contestants’ names were announced by Master of Ceremonies Rolf Kristian Stang, a Norwegian-American singer.
The contestants were escorted into the ballroom by members of the New York Police Department’s Viking Association, a group of cops with Norwegian ancestry. In addition to Benson and Henricksen, the young women vying for the title of Miss Norway were Alexis Graber, Allison Renee Battillo, Amy Corinne Jakobsen Bjornevag, Emma Kongevold, Krista Bracken, Kristen Ward, Kristin Goold, Kristina June Tjornhom, Olivia Kylland Samois and Pamela Olsen.
Benson, dressed in a light blue sleeveless gown, told the judges she has always gotten a kick out of the fact that she was born on the day the Winter Olympics opened in Norway 21 years ago.
Following an intermission, the contestants were interviewed one by one by the judges. Benson, a communication major at Rutgers, plans to pursue a career in speech pathology. She said she is proud that her college sorority, Gamma Phi Beta, took part in a fundraiser last fall for the Children’s Miracle Network, a cancer charity. Collectively, the various sororities that took part in the event raised an impressive $170,000 for kids with cancer. “We had a dance marathon where we danced until we couldn’t stand anymore!” she said.
One way her family keeps up Norwegian traditions is by pursuing winter sports, she told the judges.
Norway is a country that takes winter sports like skiing, ski jumping and ice hockey very seriously. Benson learned to ski at the age of two. “If I have kids, I’m going to teach them to ski as soon as they turn two,” she said.
The judges were Joyce Abrahamsen, activities director of the Norwegian Christian Home and Health Center; Brian Andersson, former commissioner of the New York City Department of Records; Amanda Bernsten, Miss Norway of Greater New York 2012; Capt. Raymond Festino, commanding officer of the 68th Precinct; and John Quaglione, deputy chief of staff to state Sen. Marty Golden.
“This is a very tough contest for me. You’ll all amazing,” Festino told the contestants at one point.
Henricksen, looking elegant in a gold gown, talked about her role as a special education teacher and how honored she was to be taking part in the contest. “It’s really special to be here,” she said. She also revealed that she wrote her senior thesis in college on an anti-bullying program developed in Norway.
The contest chairs were Rutuelo and Lynn Anderson.
The event began with an appearance by a group of children dressed in Norwegian folk dresses and clothing. The youngsters, who had been named Little Miss Norways and Cadets, were interviewed onstage by Stang, who playfully coaxed them to say a few words in Norwegian.
An earlier version of the article mistakenly reported that Lauren Benson is a senior at Rutgers University. She is a junior. The name of her sorority was also reported incorrectly. It is Gamma Phi Beta. We regret the errors.
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