Beautiful inside and out
Caitlin Freier of Alexandria knows she's a beautiful person and is happy with who she is. But it wasn't always that way.
As a child, she says she was somewhat "chubby" and was teased a lot about her physical appearance.
There were others who have always seen her beauty - her immediate family, including parents Todd and Julie Freier of Alexandria, and her extended family. It was an aunt who first contacted her about entering the Main Street Model competition sponsored by maurices - a popular clothing store.
The company was seeking "real girls in all sizes" to represent their hometowns and maurices in upcoming fall, holiday and spring advertising campaigns.
"It required you to put a video of yourself on YouTube, and I was hesitant to do that," said the 2008 Jefferson High School graduate.
But it didn't take long before another aunt on the other side of Freier's family contacted her about the contest, also telling her she'd be perfect for it.
"I figured OK, if they both think this is a good idea and are pushing me to do it, I'll do it," Freier recalled. "maurices was looking for girls who want to be role models for girls, and that is something I've really wanted to do.
"I know now I was always pretty in my own way, and that just because you're not a toothpick doesn't mean you're not beautiful. Beauty is definitely deeper than the skin and I want to show that to young girls."
So the night before the deadline she made her video and typed up her biography and submitted her contest entry.
Then, the 21-year-old turned her attention back to finishing her junior year at Concordia College in Moorhead, where she is majoring in marketing.
Submissions for the Main Street Model competition were accepted from March 13 through April 7. During that time, a total of 549 women from across the nation entered.
Online voting took place April 10-24 and the field was narrowed to 50 contestants.
"I was very surprised!" Freier said of being one of those still in the running.
But there were more surprises on the way.
Of those 50 contestants, maurices selected 20 finalists who met in Minneapolis in early May for a casting call with a panel of judges, including Christopher Straub from Lifetime's Project Runway.
Freier was one of those selected to attend this event. She underwent an interview process and a photo shoot.
On the day she returned home from Minneapolis, she received a call telling her that she was chosen as one of the 12 contest winners - but there was a catch. She had to keep the news to herself over the weekend until the other winners could be notified the following Monday.
"That was very hard," Freier said, "especially since I couldn't believe it even happened. I still can't!"
As one of the top 12 winners, Freier will be featured in a national maurices ad campaign for the company's fall clothing line. Three other winners will also do the fall line, while four will do a holiday campaign and the other four a spring campaign.
The photo shoots are conducted in the contest winners' hometowns, so Freier's will be done right here in Alexandria. It is scheduled for June 1-2 at various locations, including the Knute Nelson Ballpark and the scenic overlook by Glenwood.
Besides the photo shoot, which will give the women national exposure through maurices mailers, social media and on www.maurices.com, the winners will also receive:
$1,500 in maurices clothing;
a flip video camera to capture their path to becoming a maurices model;
$7,500 for a charitable makeover to be awarded directly to a community or charitable organization in their hometown.
Freier is giving careful consideration to where she will donate the charitable money and hasn't made a decision yet.
"This whole thing has been unreal," she said of the experience. "But I know without my family I wouldn't have made it. They've been extremely supportive - even when I was little and they gave me the confidence I didn't necessarily feel all the time. They've encouraged me to get through the times I didn't think I was worth a whole lot."
maurices operates more than 760 stores in 44 states. Offering sizes 1-24, the company's styles are inspired by the girl in everyone, in every size.
FREIER'S CONTEST ESSAY
"Growing up I was always told I was too chubby or too tall by classmates and as a result I spent a lot of my childhood wondering why I wasn't pretty and feeling like I didn't fit in. However, as the years went on I came to realize that beauty comes in many different shapes and forms and although I may not be a size 2, that does not mean that I am not beautiful.
Today, I love my curves and height and appreciate the unique features that make me, me! As a maurices model I would be able to be a spokeswoman for other plus size girls and encourage them to see themselves for who they truly are - beautiful, strong, and unique.
I would love nothing more than to encourage women to pursue their dreams and give back to the community in which they live. Giving back to the community builds character and boosts confidence as well as benefits society.
I believe that it is crucial for young women today to recognize their unique abilities and talents and to utilize them to the best of their abilities. It is through hard work and perseverance that women can continue to inspire and encourage one another.
As a maurices model, I would work hard to be a role model and example for other women. If I could save one little girl from feeling unattractive and like an outcast, then I will have accomplished a great thing."