Lex Najarian, Miss Nebraska USA

Miss Nebraska Lex Najarian Vies for Miss USA 2019

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LINCOLN, Neb. — Lex Najarian was crowned as Miss Nebraska USA in January 2019 and now is preparing to compete in the Miss USA pageant while promoting health-related causes dear to her heart.

Lex Najarian

Najarian grew up in very sports-oriented environment because of her father and uncles’ early careers in football. She said, “I thought that I wanted to be a professional tennis player for a very long time. With sports being so prevalent in my life and my uncles’ and dad’s success it seemed achievable. I played tennis for about 12 years, from the time I was 4 to 16. I played in high school and loved it.” Born in Western Springs, Illinois, Alexis Nicole Najarian grew up in Connecticut and went to New Canaan High School there.

Alexis Najarian with her parents Lisa and Peter

However, she thought she was better suited for track when she got to the age to apply to colleges. She switched to become a high jumper and a triple jumper for the track team and just played tennis for fun.

She modeled briefly when living in Connecticut and took a gap year after graduating high school in 2012, intending to model in New York City. She did some local work in Connecticut and did some shoots for a yoga and fitness company in New York. However, nothing really came of it, she said, “because I decided I wasn’t really that interested in it at that time of my life.”

Lex Najarian

She was working part time and went to school part time, but after the gap year reapplied to colleges and decided on the University of Nebraska in Lincoln. Her track work paid off because she ended up high jumping for one year at the University of Nebraska.

She studied psychology at the university and graduated in 2017. Her goal, she said, is to use her background for sport psychology. She said, “I would love to someday own my own gym, with a holistic approach to athletics, and incorporate sports nutrition and sports psychology into the physical training aspects of becoming elite in your sport.” In addition to a sports psychologist and sports nutritionist, she would hire coaches specialized in various sports, and help high school athletes from about 15 to 19 years old, to hone their skills so that they could compete at the college level.

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She said that she wants to bring the great staff support for training, nutrition, injury prevention and everything that goes into the mental side of a sport that colleges like the University of Nebraska provide their athletes to the high school level since there is a lack of knowledge and resources there.

Najarian had never entered a pageant before the Miss Nebraska contest but did continue to do some modeling while at the university. About three years ago, she said, a friend of hers told her about the Buckle, a men’s and women’s clothing store based in Kearny, Neb., about two hours west of Lincoln. She interviewed there to become an online model and was also asked to be a fit model. She went twice a week to Kearny to do this for about a year and a half, and only recently at the end of October 2018 stopped working for them. She also has occasionally done some modeling and photoshoots for pageants.

One of Najarian’s friends had competed a few years earlier in a pageant and suggested it to her as a great platform through which to develop an online training and fitness business. This made sense to Lex so although there were only a few months before the pageant weekend she decided to enter it. Not only did she win the title but she also received the Overall Interview Award and Most Photogenic Award. She is now getting ready to compete for the title of Miss USA 2019.

Lex Najarian as Miss Nebraska USA

Najarian on her paternal side comes from a well-known Armenian family originally from Kharpert (Harput). Her great-great-grandfather, Lazar Najarian (1860-1953), donated $20,000 in 1952 from the US via the Armenian General Benevolent Union to help buy a building in Aleppo. This became the site of the AGBU Lazar Najarian School in 1954. It was turned into a high school in 1959 and renamed as the AGBU Lazar Najarian-Calouste Gulbenkian Central High School, and it continues its mission to the present.

In 1905, Lazar’s son, Garabed Lazarus (1884-1940), came to the United States. Garabed and his wife Siran moved to Oakland, Calif., where they had three boys. The middle son, John Sarkis (born in 1927), became a famous surgeon.

Lex explained: “My grandfather ended up becoming a transplant surgeon and became interested in the medical field because his father was very sick when he was growing up and he passed away at a young age. And this led my grandfather to go to the University of California Berkeley. He played football there and he also studied medicine.” He became a pioneer in kidney, pancreas and liver transplants. He married a nursing student of Swedish descent and after having four sons moved to Minnesota, where he served as chief of surgery for the University of Minnesota Medical School for many years.

Najarian family reunion in 2011, with Dr. John Najarian in middle of back row

All four boys played football in college and then professionally. Lex’s oldest uncle Jon was a linebacker for the Chicago Bears for a little while and stayed in Chicago to become involved in the stock market and the Chicago Board Options Exchange. Lex’s father Peter is the youngest of the four siblings, and after playing football, including with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Minnesota Vikings and Sacramento Surge, moved to Chicago and started trading stocks with Jon in the early 1990s. They started several financial companies together and sold the online brokerage firm TradeMonster to Etrade in 2016 for $750 million. Both brothers are contributors to CNBC on the “Fast Money” halftime show and the “Fast Money” financial investing show in the evenings.

The four Najarian brothers in 2011 at a family reunion

Uncles David and Paul Najarian owned a Popeye’s Chicken franchise in southern Minneapolis for many years, which has been sold now. Paul passed away from ALS in 2014 after a three-year battle. David now owns a gym in Oak Park Heights, Minn.

Lex had various Armenian friends as well as relatives while growing up in Connecticut. She said that while her grandmother was 100 percent Swedish the only Swedish dish she would make was Swedish meatballs. She learned Armenian recipes from her mother-in-law and always made dolma, paklava and various other Armenian foods. Lex said, “We would always have Armenian food at family gatherings.” Lex’s uncle David and her aunt have a restaurant in Minnesota where they are trying to incorporate some Armenian recipes, according to Lex.

In Nebraska, unlike Connecticut, she said there are very few Armenians. Lex said, “I don’t think I have come across very many at all during my time here. I have lived in Lincoln for about six years. Any time I see somebody with the last name ending in -yan or -ian, I always ask, are you Armenian. I always look for those.” She added, “I am really happy and proud to be part of a community that is so proud of our culture.”

As far as Lex knows, no one in her family has traveled to the Republic of Armenia. She said, “I would love to visit Armenia. I would love to bring everyone in my family and make it a big family trip. We have had two or three family reunions in the past with my dad, brothers and grandparents. It would be a really cool thing to have an Armenian family reunion in Armenia.”

In a few months, Najarian will go compete at Miss USA, the national pageant. If she were to win, she would give her Miss Nebraska title to her runner-up, and if not, keep it for a full year. As Miss Nebraska, she began to focus on spreading awareness of Lyme disease, she said, “because I am now realizing how big my voice is and how big of an audience I have. My mom suffered from Lyme disease. She has had it for about 20 years now but was only diagnosed 3 years ago when we moved to Minnesota. I shifted gears because I realized that while I have my whole life to pursue everything I want to do in fitness and health, this is a critical year where I can make a real difference for the Lyme disease community by advocating for proper diagnoses and treatment processes.”

She said that the pageant process might be difficult but, she said, “We have all chosen to enter these competitions so I think that it is just a matter of being mentally prepared. We all know we are going to be judged and it is very subjective judging. Some think skinny is beautiful, some people think strong is beautiful, others think having more body fat is beautiful. I think it is up for us as women to do whatever we feel is healthy and beautiful and makes us feel good. It is up to each individual to decide to be strong enough to accept the results no matter what. Of course it is easier said than done.”

She had been working as a sales associate for Orangetheory Fitness in South Lincoln, Neb. after graduating the university but in February decided to take a break to focus fulltime on preparation for the next pageant as well as travel and appearances. She will be speaking to middle school girls at a yoga studio in a few weeks about female empowerment and feeling confident about their bodies. In April she will participate in an autism walk, and has some other events coming up.

She already went to Dallas and Austin Texas for some boot camps and to pick up her gowns for Miss USA in late January and early February, and at the end of March has another such camp. There, she does mock interviews, reads about current events, pop culture and US history, and practices walking and photo shoots. It is run by WME-IMG (William Morris Endeavor-International Management Group), a talent management group which puts on the national pageant. The VanBros organization helps prepare all the candidates from six states including Nebraska for the latter, as well as runs their state pageants.

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