VIRGINIA — Noelle Merhar is an average sixth grader at Roosevelt Elementary. She is involved in band, figure skating, dance and cheer. However, unlike most of her peers, Merhar is pursuing modeling and is also involved in beauty competitions. She is currently the 2019 National Extraordinary Miss Northern Lights Pre-teen representing Minnesota.
The National Extraordinary Miss Organization is a scholarship pageant that encourages young women to showcase their personalities, according to the organization.
Noelle also holds the title of Miss Virginia as part of the America’s Little Miss organization.
Her parents are Monica Merhar, the treatment director of the Merritt House through Range Mental Health, and Jason Merhar, a millwright at United Taconite.
“A friend came and asked if we wanted to give this a try,” said Monica Merhar during an interview this week. “She has always wanted to try modeling. When we lived in Florida I wanted to get her into pageants but her dad was against it. He thought it would be like ‘Toddlers and Tiaras’.”
She convinced her husband it was nothing like the TLC reality show, which highlighted the competitive child pageantry world.
“I want to do pageants to meet new people,” Noelle said. The pageant world has opened Noelle to many friendships, something that isn’t the easiest when you move.
After LTV closed in 2001 and Jason was out of work, the family moved and Noelle was born in Florida. Then, three years ago, the family returned home to the Iron Range. Since then, Noelle has enjoyed meeting new people and making friends. Pageants have given her more opportunities to bond with peers.
Once the family was in agreement to begin pageants, Monica reached out to model and three-time pageant title holder Ashley Crossley to begin coaching Noelle for both pageants and modeling.
“We’ve seen such growth in her self confidence,” said Monica, who is proud of this quality that will follow her daughter throughout her lifetime.
As part of the National Extraordinary Miss organization, competitors were encouraged to do 25 days of kindness leading up to the holidays. On her Facebook page, Noelle documented her acts from ringing bells for The Salvation Army, to buying lunch for the person behind her in line and bringing treats to the fire hall.
“These are easy things I don’t see anyone else doing,” Noelle said. “I am trying to set an example.”
Adding a cute story, Monica talked about how since she was little Noelle has always been “obsessed with bell ringing. Whenever we would hear the bells, Noelle would empty my purse. She has always been generous since she was little. She likes to give.”
“Noelle likes to help other people and spread awareness for other things people can do,” Crossley said. “She enjoyed doing the acts of kindness around the community to let people know she cares.”
During their coaching sessions, Crossley works with Noelle on walking, interviewing, hair and makeup. Right now they are preparing for the national competition. There are events everyone competes in including: evening gown, runway, interview and community involvement. There are extra competitions they can opt into and Noelle will be participating in: photogenic, top model, talent (a personalized cheer), casual wear, among others.
With her title of Miss Northern Lights Pre-teen, Noelle will be traveling to Gatlinburg, Tenn. to represent Minnesota while competing in the national pageant.
“I will try to do my best,” said Noelle. “It is OK if I don’t get first place as this is my first year. But I’m still hoping…”
Smiling at her daughter, Monica said, “I just want her to be happy and do the best she can. We are there to back her in whatever she chooses.”
Things are moving fast for the Merhars, who only began pageants last month.
“I think she has a lot of potential. At this point we are more focused on modeling,” Crossley said, explaining that Noelle has been booked by several magazines.
No matter where her path leads her, Noelle is still an average sixth grader who enjoys hanging out with friends, watching movies and skiing.
Noelle is currently looking for sponsorships by individuals and businesses. She is also available for appearances and volunteering opportunities. Noelle can be contacted through her Facebook page @NEMPreteenNorthernLights or through email at NoelleMerharMN@gmail.com.