Jennifer Egenberg was crowned Miss Norway last week at the 56th Annual Miss Norway Pageant, held in Dyker Heights. The Staten Island native, currently studying elementary education at the University of Connecticut (with a concentration in History), “impressed the judges with her knowledge of Norwegian history and her interest in her heritage,” the Brooklyn Paper reported. “This isn’t just a beauty contest,” the pageant’s chairwoman told the paper. “We look at the over-all person.” We caught up with Egenberg to figure out what her new position entails, and whether Norway’s really as great as the Miss Norway pageant makes it out to be. She took a few extra days to respond: “we had 15 relatives from Norway with my family and I for the Easter weekend,” she wrote in an email, “so it was a little busy!”
Is this something you’ve always dreamed about? Or something you just found out about?
Well, my mom had competed in the Miss Norway Pageant when she was my age, so I had always wanted to follow in her shoes and maybe one day win the crown; never did I think I would actually win it, though! In addition, I have attended many pageants over the years, and have known many friends and family members who have competed as well. So it pretty much has been a dream of mine for as long as I can remember—not necessarily winning the crown, but just being in the contest and having the experience and privilege of competing in such an important event for Norwegian-Americans.
What are your official duties as Miss Norway?
One of my main duties is to ride in the 17th of May Parade and be introduced to everyone, as well as attend a few other events throughout the year. I then have to prepare a short speech for next year’s Miss Norway Pageant about my past year and then pass on the crown and sash to the next Miss Norway. I am to do this all while representing Norway to the best of my ability, which is such an amazing honor to be given.
Have you met last year’s Miss Norway?
I only briefly had the opportunity to meet last years Miss Norway before the pageant as she gave all the girls competing a quick encouraging pep talk. From what I know of her she is an amazing and accomplished woman and I am honored to follow in her shoes.
Do you get to go to Norway? As part of an exchange program with Olso’s Miss America?
I actually do get to go to Norway—and I am so excited! Every year, the newly crowned Miss Norway receives two round trip tickets to Norway along with some other prizes.
When I think of Norwegian New Yorkers, I think of Brooklyn. But you’re from Staten Island. Is there a Norwegian community out there? Or were you the only one?
Well, my parents were both born and raised in Bay Ridge in Norwegian households and then decided to moved to Staten Island once they were married. I was actually born in Brooklyn too, but raised in Staten Island until middle school when we moved to New Jersey. Then, two years ago, my family and I moved to Connecticut. But out of the three places that I have lived, Staten Island definitely had the biggest Norwegian community by far. A large majority of my church was of Norwegian or Scandinavian descent as well as many of my childhood friends. So definitely there was, and still is, a very strong Norwegian community in Staten Island. As far as New Jersey and Connecticut go, if you look closely enough and start talking to people, you will be surprised to find out how many Norwegians are there as well. So I definitely am not the only one—us Norwegians are everywhere! [They’re evening asking you these questions—Ed.]
What are some of your favorite facets of Norwegian culture?
There are so many I do not even know where to begin! I must say I am most thankful for the importance of family and traditions that the Norwegian culture has, but I really do love the food, especially the desserts! Without a doubt, Norway has the best chocolate. I also love though how the Norwegian culture takes great pride and enjoyment in nature and being outdoors, as well as being thankful for the simple things in life.
Do you worry about New York’s ever-dwindling Norwegian population? One day, could there not be enough interest to crown a Miss Norway?
I most definitely do. I pray that my generation and the generations after will feel the desire and importance to carry on the Norwegian culture and traditions with their own families just like my parents did with me. Being raised in a Norwegian-American household shaped who I am today in so many ways that I would want nothing more than to do the same with my own family. I have great faith, however, in the Norwegian population that they will maintain the interest in crowning a Miss Norway, and that it will remain a tradition for many years to come.
What generation American are you?
I am a second generation American. Three out of my four grandparents were born and raised in Norway until they immigrated to America and my mother was born in America but then raised in Norway. I am 100 percent Norwegian and am so proud to say so because there are not too many of us out there who can say they are 100 percent.
C’mon—what do you really think of Sweden?
Well, I have not had the opportunity to go to Sweden yet, but from what I hear it is a beautiful country that is rich in culture, just like Norway. Also, I can never turn down a good plate of Swedish meatballs or a shopping trip to IKEA.