Monday, March 9, 2015

Macedonian born beauty queen: interview with Ana Ostlund

I am delighted to post an interview with Ana Ostlund, a marvelous young lady I met through work at Au Pair in America.  Born in Macedonia, she came to the US in 2005 and now works as a community counselor in Vail, Colorado, supporting host families and au pairs.  She also represented Vail in Mrs. Colorado pageant.

MJN: Most people don't know much about Macedonia.  If you are lucky, they'll remember that it's a part of the former Yugoslavia - a rather diverse country.  Can you talk about the ways that Macedonia is establishing its own identity after the dissolution of Yugoslavia? Which other neighboring republic does it have most in common?

AO: Great questions Marina. You are one of the most intelligent women I have met in my life. Your sense of humor and hard work always fascinates me.

The history of Macedonia is very controversial, polemical and very unique. Macedonia was ruled by Alexander the Great (356-323) BC, followed by 500 years of Ottoman Slavery. In 1945 Macedonia became part of Yugoslavia, and 1991 finally claimed its Independence. With such a rich and diverse history, it’s hard to tell which country we have most common with. If I said the Formal Yugoslavian counties I would be wrong, because Macedonian people have adopted many Turkish habits, words and customs. Turkish coffee and Baklava are great examples. At the same time   we feel very close to Greek and Russian culture mostly, because of the Orthodox Christianity, and the very similar delicious cuisine.

MJN: I remember something you said.  The phrase stuck with me.  "I feel at home everywhere!"  It's such a wonderful attitude to have, because it opens you up to new experiences and makes your life so much richer.  So many people are afraid to try new things, visit new places. Were you born with this kind of attitude, or did you consciously cultivate it?

AO: I do feel like home everywhere I go. I’m not sure if it’s a blessing or a curse. When you grow up in a county with so many cultural influences, you can’t help it, but take the best of everything .Those culture differences and similarities makes you who you are today. I love trying new things, traveling and I think the most rewarding thing you do in life is getting out of your comfort zone. That’s where all the magic and beautiful things happen. We are all born limitless, and the only limits we have, are the ones we set on our own.

MJN: Right now you live in Vail, CO.  From what I hear, it's a very beautiful area where people come to vacation. The permanent population is not that huge.  Many people are employed in the hospitality/tourism industry.  Other work opportunities are limited.  Do you feel a little stifled? Do you ever wonder what it would be like to live in a big city?

AO: I came in Vail in 2005 to improve my English (still working on it). I cannot imagine myself living anywhere else but here. Vail Valley is one of the most beautiful place I have lived so far. Not only because of the beautiful Mountains and great skiing, but mostly because of its people. They come from all over the world to ski or to work. I have to say that jobs are very limited. Hospitality is the main industry in the Valley. They say you come for the winter, but you stay for the summers. Summers here are amazing. Lots of hiking, mountain bike riding, are rafting with gorgeous views. I know I’m happy everywhere I go, because I have the power to make the best of it, so if I had to live in a big city that would be lots of fun.

MJN: A few years ago you represented Vail in Mrs. Colorado pageant. Is the criteria different from that in Miss America? Can you tell me a little more about the preparation?  Did you walk away with a sense of solidarity or competition?

AO: Being form Macedonia I never thought I would ever compete in a pageant. In my country little girls are never told to be beautiful or great. When growing up in Macedonia I was extremely shy and not very outgoing. I wouldn’t even go to a birthday party unless I had my Mom next to me holding my hand. I was so desperate to get over my shyness that I Prayed to God, and I discovered the magical power of Prayer. Today I’m very sociable, friendly and outgoing person. When my Mom was visiting USA few years ago she inspired me to enter. Mrs. Colorado –America Pageant.  Mrs. Colorado –America Pageant honors the married woman. Unlike Miss America Pageant, Mrs. Colorado does not require a talent competition, to be married, is talent enough.)  It takes a lot of time and effort to prepare for a Pageant .It’s like a sport, a beauty sport. It requires discipline. You have to know the rules, the DO and DON”T. I made the most beautiful friendships at the Pageant. Most of the lady’s at the Pageant have competed in pageants since very young age. Pageantry has helped me so much in improving my confidence and becoming a better woman. By nature I’m not very competitive at all, but I do like to compete with myself from yesterday. I think we should never stop growing, improving and learning new things.

MJN: Given your beauty queen rank, your Eastern European descent and the age difference with your husband, I'm sure you've encountered your share of assumptions about the nature of your marriage.  I'm asking because I've gotten my dose of "Russian mail order bride" comments, even though my husband is only 10 years older, and I was an American citizen by the time we met. How do you counter that kind of attitude? Do you think it's better to ignore those comments or turn them into a joke?

AO: People will always have their options no matter what you do .People opinions are only valid as long as they can pay your bills. When you know who you are, and what you do is for the right reasons it doesn't matter what they say .At the beginning it was very difficult for me to deal with people questions about the age difference and the nature of the marriage .Now when I’m older and over 10 year of being with the love of my life, my husband, I think differently.   

Love is a beautiful thing, and we all should have the right to choose who we are going to marry, and not be judged for it. What people think of you does not define you, it defines them. You can’t ignore ignorant questions because they will keep coming. I just joke about the age question now. Bottom line not everyone can drive a nice Vintage car. You must be very special kind of person.

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