BEAUTY QUEEN MEETS MATCH ON 71ST DATE
Miss Minnesota had 70 dates before meeting Polish immigrant
DOTTIE Cannon, 35, had a free lifetime membership to Match.com after agreeing to be featured in a company commercial in 2012. Two years and 70 dates later, she was still searching.
“Nothing really horrible ever happened on those 70 dates,” said Cannon, who was crowned Miss Minnesota in 2006, although she was starting to sense why a lifetime membership might be necessary.
“Some guys were just sad. Some had bad manners.”
Cannon wound up with the Miss Congeniality sash that year in the Miss USA pageant (The title went to Tara Conner of Kentucky).
In 2011, six years after earning a degree in marketing from the University of St Thomas in St Paul, Cannon moved to Manhattan here to look for work, retiring her pageant dresses.
For Polish immigrant Konrad Bieniek, 36, who moved from Queens to Manhattan the same year as Cannon and having just signed up for a month-long trial in 2014, Cannon was Match date No. 2.
When they met for a drink at the Ace Hotel in the Flatiron district in April, she sensed he was different, although the meeting was far from perfect.
“Most of our conversation centred around the fact that he knew someone from Minnesota, who worked at Target,” said Cannon, who herself had a stint at Target headquarters in Minneapolis.
“I went to dinner with friends later, and they asked how the date went,” she said.
“I was like, it went fine, but to be honest, it felt like he was more interested in talking about his friend than getting to know me.”
She didn’t rule out a second date. But Bieniek, a web-user experience designer with an economics degree from the University of Connecticut, said she might as well have.
“She cut out early and said she was going to be busy the next few weeks because her birthday was coming up, and her parents were coming to visit,” he said.
But he couldn’t get her off his mind.
“She was very pretty, which I knew from seeing her picture, but she was also taller than I thought,” said Bieniek, who at 1.77m, is only 7cm taller.
Cannon, who is the director of human resources at Calvin Klein, admits to an abundance of extroversion. For Bieniek, that kind of friendliness was thrilling, if entirely foreign.
His mother hoped he would stick with local Polish girls. But, he said, “I wanted something different, someone with a different mentality.”
Cannon fitted that profile. Growing up in Eagan, Minnesota, she was cocooned in sweetness and trust. Her parents, Melodee and Harry, still live in the house they bought in 1981, where Cannon and her younger brother, Samuel, were raised.
When Bieniek called Cannon for a second date in April 2014, they met for tea at the nowclosed Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf in the Meatpacking District, and the conversation shifted to their wildly different backgrounds.
Bieniek walked Cannon back to her SoHo apartment, but they weren’t done talking when they reached her door. Within weeks, they closed their Match accounts. Within months, they were planning a vacation to Italy.
In August 2016, Cannon moved into Bieniek’s apartment, where they still live with their rescue dog, Hugo. But if committing to each other was easy, ironing out how they wanted the future to look was less so.
Since 2015, when she took a volunteer trip to Lesotho, Africa, with her church group, Cannon wanted to adopt a child from that country. Bieniek was not so sure.
“We had a difficult conversation. I think it could have ended our relationship,” Cannon said.
“Where I come from, people don’t really think that way about helping someone they don’t know,” Bieniek said.
“They’re more focused on family and community. Because when you’re struggling, it’s harder to think about external things.”
But since meeting Cannon, he said, “I’ve grown. I’ve changed my opinion on a lot of things.”
Among the qualities he loves about Cannon is her openness.
Her ease among strangers was on display in January last year, when the couple was in Hawaii.
“We were walking down a sidewalk, and a man fell into the street,” Bieniek said.
“Cannon was the first person to run across and get him up and tell somebody to call 911. She just took over. I was so impressed. I aspire to be someone like that.”
He had expressed his aspiration to be the husband of someone like that to Cannon’s father.
A few months before, Bieniek took Harry aside and told him his plan to propose in Hawaii.
On Jan 29, at sunset on a Hawaii beach, Bieniek dropped to one knee and presented the ovalshaped diamond. It was so surprising she could not believe what she was hearing.
“I’m partially deaf in my left ear, and the wind was blowing. I couldn’t hear him.”
Once she pieced together what he was asking, she said yes.
“Then we got in the car and that’s when it hit me. I started crying. Bieniek is not really the romantic type. I was expecting us to get engaged a few months down the road, while we were at home in our pajamas with spaghetti on the floor.”
On Oct 6 at La Colina, a 1930s Spanish guesthouse in New Hampton here, more than a handful of the 90 guests at Cannon and Bieniek’s wedding cried, too.
Bieniek in lace cap-sleeve dress with a high neckline bought at Kleinfeld’s and a simple veil, walked with her father down a makeshift aisle on the guesthouse’s rustic upstairs veranda.
Bieniek wore a navy blue suit with a black bow tie.
The Reverend Werner Ramirez, the couple’s minister, led the ceremony, which included Bieniek’s handwritten vows, in which he promised to learn and grow with Cannon for the rest of his life.
Then, Cannon had a surprise for everyone. Her maid of honour, Kimberly Pearson, handed her a sheaf of papers. Fighting tears and asking guests to bear with her, she read, in shaky Polish, her own vows.
Afterward, she translated for English speakers: “My heart, my Bieniek,” she began.
“You are my rock, my solid foundation that doesn’t waver. I’m glad we have come to this moment. I love you. This is our journey.”
Before dancing and dinner, Monika Bieniek praised her new sister-in-law for dazzling the crowd with her vows.
A nine-piece band, Chevy Chevis, welcomed Cannon and Bieniek to the reception tent with Beyonce’s Crazy in Love — then quickly switched gears to Louis Armstrong’s Give Me a Kiss to Build a Dream On
Newlyweds Dottie Cannon and Konrad Bieniek on the reception dance floor in New Hampton, New York, recently.