The Miss Universe organization contacted me a couple of weeks ago and asked if I would like to interview Miss Nebraska, Lex Najarian. I initially balked. My thought being “We are a sports site, mostly”, why would someone be contacting me about this interview?
They were insistent to the point I reconsidered. It IS the off-season. I encourage my writers to engage in non-sports topics and write about what they’re interested in, so why not this? I decided to do the interview and I am glad I did. I expected to speak to a young lady who would talk about pageants, stage appearances, or focus on her experience of being crowned Miss Nebraska.
That’s not what I got.
What I got was a young woman who has a pretty clear focus on where she’s going in life.
Lex Najarian is 25 years old. She grew up playing sports. She played tennis early, wanting to be a professional tennis player. When it came time to get into college, she switched to track. She spent a year doing high jump at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The 2019 Miss Nebraska contest was the first pageant she ever took part in. I asked her why she decided to do it. She felt that it was a different kind of challenge, and a way to network as she does online personal training, including assisting clients with their nutrition and diets.
Her win in the Miss Nebraska contest was the first pageant she ever took part in. I asked her why she did it. She does online personal training with clients things like helping people be more physically fit and assisting them with their diet. She felt the Miss Nebraska contest was a great opportunity to network with people in it would be something that would be fun and new and a new challenge for her. Her dad “has been in sports his whole life and wasn’t used to having a daughter in high heels.” She decided to enter the contest two months before it took place.
Most of the interview centered on her advocacy of the awareness of Lyme disease.
Her mother, her brother and herself have all been diagnosed with the disease. Her mom Lisa started the Twin Cities Lyme Foundation and has lived with the disease for 20 years with some symptoms such as fatigue being quite severe. It affects everyone differently; her brother and her have much milder symptoms.
I am familiar with Lyme disease because as a Boy Scout leader we were trained on how to be aware of deer ticks. We were told there would be a telltale rash that looked like a “bulls-eye” that appeared on the skin a few days after you were bitten and potentially infected.
Miss Najarian related that it’s not only being outdoors that can cause the disease. Your pets could have ticks on them that later infect you when you cuddle with them. She stated it could come from a spider or mosquito bites (although the CDC site on Lyme Disease Transmission specifically states - “There is no credible evidence that Lyme disease can be transmitted through air, food, water, or from the bites of mosquitoes, flies, fleas, or lice.”
Every state has had a diagnosis of Lyme Disease, although some have more than others. (Note the map here showing Minnesota, Wisconsin, and several states in the Northeast in which the disease is much more prevalent. Also note that the occurrences have increased significantly over the past few years.)
Najarian wants to continue her advocacy of Lyme Disease awareness during her time as Miss Nebraska. She had Governor Ricketts sign a proclamation that the Month of May is Lyme Disease Awareness Month and if she wins Miss USA one of her goals was to go to all 50 states to raise awareness and have each governor make the same proclamation.
Lyme Disease is frequently misdiagnosed as ALS, Meniere’s disease, or fibromyalgia, because doctors don’t recognize it or know how to deal with it. She is hoping she can change that through advocacy.
I asked her if she ever got any crap about taking part in beauty pageants. “No”. Because of her involvement in sports she’s always had a very positive support system. She doesn’t never gets harassed and people of been very positive toward her.
She is 25% Armenian and because of that she identifies with that ethnicity more than any other. Our travel writer Nate pointed that out and wanted to know if she’d ever been to Armenia, so I asked. She said no but she would love to go. In researching her background, I found information on her family history - her family is full of overachievers and VERY Armenian. If she ever encountered someone with a last name ending in “ian”, she would always ask if they were Armenian. She talked about the Armenian genocide as the anniversary was the day before our conversation.
Of course I had to get in something about Husker football, so I asked how many games she thought Nebraska will win this season.
She said, “a solid 10-2”.
A bold prediction.
She worked for the football team under Bo Pelini and Mike Riley - her last season was when Riley left. She didn’t get to experience Scott Frost “firsthand”, but felt that the team having another year under their belt they would be much improved.
“If we can pick up from where we left off last year we’ll have a real shot at beating any team, including Ohio State who is a very put together and solid team.”
Does she like the Nebraska tourism slogan, “Honestly, it’s not for everyone”?
The slogan is very divisive among Nebraskans, but she “loves it”. People on her production staff talk about. She said they laugh about it; it gets people interested in talking more about Nebraska. She said she realizes Nebraska is not a destination for most people because it doesn’t include beaches or mountains, but at least the slogan makes people “raise an eyebrow and get interested. People in Nebraska are special in that they stay. People put their roots there, they raise a family and they work hard”. It takes a special kind of person to put their roots in Nebraska.”
My last question – “what is your guilty pleasure?”
“Protein cookie dough.”
She mixes up coconut oil, protein powder, and cashew butter and then she eats it like a cookie dough. She sometimes adds dried fruits. She has restrictions on her diet because of the Lyme disease diagnosis, and therefore she comes up with her own creations.
I asked her if she had anything left to say to the people in Nebraska.
She finished with an enthusiastic,
“Go Big Red!”