Raised in North Dakota, she played soccer and was crowned Miss North Dakota in 1997. She studied mass communication, international relations, French, journalism and Iranian studies. When she was crowned Miss North Dakota, she promoted appreciation of cultural differences. She's a free-lance journalist, who continued reporting from Iran long after her press credentials had been revoked by the Iranian government.
Initially arrested supposedly for buying a bottle of wine, the charges against her slowly morphed and changed, until she was finally charged with espionage, an accusation she denies. She moved to Iran six years ago, her father's home country, in order to explain to the world what Iran was really like. Perhaps she has done just that.