When Zoey Jantsan strolls into Dunn Brothers Coffee, she’s wearing a plaid shirt from South Korea, a black pencil skirt and boots. She wraps her hands around her cup of tea and says she’s nervous because she hasn’t done many press interviews yet.
It isn’t long before Jantsan is talking about her dogs, her boyfriend and her decision to act on some lifelong dreams during recent years. At age 25, Jantsan realizes she’s carried out some passions from childhood these last few years, including her goal to secure a crown.
GETTING HER CROWN
Yes, a crown. Jantsan officially became Miss Minnesota U.S. International in October in Big Lake, Minnesota. As a child, Jantsan would wrap her mother’s mint green blanket around her waist and add a belt to keep it in place as her “poofy dress,” and adorn her head with a plastic tiara to complete her pretend pageant winner look. This last fall, her childhood dream came true.
Good thing, too, as she only has two years left before reaching the age limit of 27 to compete in Miss Minnesota U.S. International. “So I had to do it now, or I wasn’t going to do it at all,” she says.
What else did she dream about as a child? Having a Golden Retriever named Lucky. She’s got that, too, and did so immediately upon moving out of her childhood home in Pine Island at age 19 to attend the Minnesota School of Business in Rochester. That’s where she met her dreamboat, Charles Saballa, with whom she now lives, works and even offices.
Saballa had to court Jantsan for a year as a fellow student at the Minnesota School of Business before Jantsan would officially go out with him. She was not only going to school, but also holding down two jobs and told him, repeatedly, that she didn’t have time for breakfast or dinner. So to woo her, Saballa brought donuts and orange juice to class. His perseverance paid off, and the two are now a couple.
ON HAPPINESS AND OTHER THINGS
As for what brings her happiness, Jantsan says it’s many things, including her pups, Lucky and Jango, her boyfriend and time spent outside. It’s her love of animals and the outdoors that prompted her to select animal and environmental conservation as her official platform for Miss Minnesota U.S. International.
Jantsan is partnered with the Minnesota Zoo to promote animal conservation. As for environmental conservation, she’s researching potential partnerships and is open to suggestions and ideas for ways she can further connect her love of nature with advocacy.
Since Mother’s Day is in May, we asked Jantsan about her mom’s influence on her life. She immediately recalls how she was asked about her most influential role model during the competition for Miss Minnesota U.S. International. “I said, ‘Like most girls, my mom is the person who inspired me the most. Not only because she’s a strong, independent woman, but because early on she instilled in me the love of reading. So during any different phase of life, I had Hermione Granger, Jane Eyre and Sherlock Holmes as my friends.’ Then I cried, and did a little ‘yes!’ gesture on stage.”
Along with pageantry and owning a dog named Lucky, Jantsan has also always known she wanted to work in real estate. So awhile back she left her work as a personal banker to become a real estate agent. “I have not dreaded a Monday since,” she says.
Jantsan says she expected to most enjoy prepping houses for sale, but it turns out the people are her main draw. She especially likes meeting new people and introducing transplants to Rochester. “It’s nice to introduce Rochester to them because some of them don’t know anything about the town,” she says. “That has been genuinely fun.”
Renee Berg is a Rochester freelance writer.