This former Miss Wisconsin USA is making a big career change, stepping up in the news business. Meet this lively young reporter and learn how she’s a model, at work and at play.
There was never any doubt in Alex Wehrley’s mind as to her career ambitions.
“I always wanted to model, and I wanted to be on television,” says the 13 WREX news anchor and reporter. “I’ve always been a ham for the camera.” She can check both off her list, as well as being crowned Miss Wisconsin USA 2009.
In January 2011, Wehrley was hired by 13 WREX to anchor the morning and noon news broadcasts. “Her progress has been great,” says news director Mike Costello. “She fits the morning show format perfectly. But her potential is up to her.”
For Wehrley, the path to finding a career in television news started out differently than it does for most broadcasters.
She grew up in the suburbs of Milwaukee, where she enjoyed a happy childhood with parents Gary and Susan and older sister, Lisa. “I was a girly girl,” Wehrley says. “I played with my Barbie dolls and watched movies like Annie and Beauty and the Beast.” She also relished time spent outdoors, visiting family members who lived on farms in Wisconsin and Missouri.
While her older sister excelled in soccer – Lisa played at the University of Wisconsin – Wehrley never took a liking to sports, but she did like to dance. She participated in tap, jazz, ballet, modern and hip hop, and even took part in several national competitions. At Brookfield East High School, she was captain of the pom-pon squad, performing at football, soccer and basketball games.
“Dance is a great way of expressing yourself,” Wehrley says. “It takes a lot of strength, flexibility and discipline – all things you need in life.”
Her modeling career began at age nine, thanks to a chance meeting her mother had with the owner of a Milwaukee-area talent agency, who saw potential in the youngster.
Wehrley spent the next three years doing print modeling for Kohl’s department store chain, which is headquartered in Milwaukee. She appeared in circulars and catalogs, sporting the latest fashions for back-to-school, spring, fall and holiday promotions.
It was a pretty decent gig, paying $45 an hour. Since then, Wehrley has landed modeling jobs for other companies, such as Walgreens, Bally Total Fitness, OfficeMax and Healthy Cooking magazine.
Wehrley entered her first beauty pageant at age 19, when she vied for the title of “Miss Madison.” It didn’t go well. “I had no idea what I was doing, and I failed to place,” she says. Still, she refused to give up. “I felt like, ‘Hey, I can do this,’” she says.
A year later, in September 2008, in her second competition, Wehrley was crowned Miss Wisconsin USA, placing ahead of nearly 50 contestants, many with years of pageant experience. “It was a shock,” she says. “I came out of nowhere.”
Once she heard her name called as winner, Wehrley knew that her life would never be the same. Over the next several weeks, she was contacted by well-wishers from around the world. “I couldn’t believe people knew who I was,” she says.
As Miss Wisconsin 2009, Wehrley stayed busy making appearances across the state, promoting causes such as the Boys & Girls Clubs and the Susan G. Komen Foundation, while taking on a full class load during her senior year at the University of Wisconsin, where she graduated in May 2009 with a communications degree. “My world got bigger and challenged me in new ways,” she says. “It made me want to be the best I could be.”
Wehrley also devoted time to preparing for the Miss USA competition, held in April 2009. She hit the gym two hours a day, six days a week. She also dieted. “Forget beer, cake and other treats that 21-year-old college seniors enjoy,” she says.
The Miss USA pageant, co-owned by NBC and Donald Trump, was held at Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas, where Wehrley and the other contestants stayed for two weeks. The experience was a stark contrast from the statewide event she’d won in Wisconsin.
“The first week in Las Vegas was phenomenal,” she says. “We went to parties, made appearances, attended magic shows and fancy dinners. The second week was the opposite. We couldn’t leave the hotel. Security was tight. There were plenty of rehearsals, and no gambling or alcohol was allowed.”
The competition didn’t go as well as Wehrley had hoped; Miss North Carolina won, and Wehrley didn’t place. Even so, the experience was unforgettable. “I was proud of the way I represented my state and myself,” she says. “I did my best, and I wouldn’t change anything. It’s something that I’m very grateful for.”
Wehrley wasted no time moving on to the next chapter in her life. She relocated to Chicago and spent a year doing freelance TV work, before accepting a position at WREX as anchor of 13 News Today.
“Alex has natural ability, and she’s easy to watch,” says Costello. “I think her past experiences with modeling and competing in pageants have helped. When you’re under that pressure, and the spotlight is on you, it teaches you to become more comfortable. When she was hired, she had a lot to learn. But working with a new director, producer and weather forecaster, she’s become the most consistent part of the morning show. ”
Wehrley admits to struggling, at times, in her first full-time position. “It’s been unlike anything else I’ve ever done,” she says. “I was very green in the beginning. I keep reminding myself that it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon, and I have to pace myself. They hired me for my potential, not for my experience. I’m very thankful that they took a chance on me. I’m learning new things every day.”
Recently, in addition to her anchoring duties, Wehrley has taken on reporting assignments. Her new responsibilities include teacher of the week coverage, a “going green” segment, and more serious news topics like drunken driving laws.
“I feel more connected, being out in the community,” she says. “I’m living those stories and not just talking about them.”
When she’s not working, Wehrley enjoys taking Pilates and yoga classes, visiting the Rockford City Market, discovering new restaurants and hanging out with friends.
Beauty pageants are now a chapter from her past, a conversation starter. Life, she says, goes on.
“My identity will not be attached to being Miss Wisconsin my entire life,” Wehrley says. “I love my new career. I get to use my skills to tell meaningful stories about people.”