Alex Wehrley quickly rising through the ranks in the entertainment business
Brookfield East grad, Miss Wisconsin USA winner has big goals for career
Alex Wehrley has the beauty and the engaging, bubbly personality for the camera.
But she wouldn't be where she is today without a strong passion to improve her craft and a determination to meet her goals.
That's how the Brookfield East High School graduate has quickly risen through the television ranks in less than three years and how she's developed her brand into much more than just being a former Miss Wisconsin USA.
"I always knew I wanted to be in the entertainment business," said Wehrley, who was recently hired as a co-host of the nationally syndicated morning news show, "Eye Opener," which is produced in Dallas and also can be seen in Houston, Philadelphia, Miami, Portland, Ore., Fort Smith, Ark., and Myrtle Beach, S.C.
She's built up a fan base across the country, but when Wehrley looks back she can't help but be amazed at how far she's come.
"I definitely moved up quicker than imagined," Wehrley said when reached recently by phone. "It's almost unheard of to jump this many markets in a short period of time. If I could go back and ask my 21-year-old self where you would be at 26 years old, I would be pleasantly surprised."
At 21, she surprised many by winning the 2009 Miss Wisconsin USA title.
Wehrley said she did not grow up competing in pageants like many of her fellow competitors.
"I was watching one in college and thought it was fun and would be a good fit and help me transition into an entertainment career," said Wehrley, then a communications art major at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who used her platform to help Boys and Girls Clubs in the Milwaukee area. "For the people in the audience, to them, here is a random girl out of nowhere. But it wasn't that random when you consider my background as I had been modeling since I was 9 years old, I was a communications major and was comfortable speaking in front of a lot of people."
Putting in the work
Wehrley graduated shortly after the Miss Wisconsin USA competition (which saw her travel to Las Vegas for the Miss USA competition), but she knew nothing was going to be handed to her.
"Not every girl, but a lot of girls who go into pageants want to launch entertainment careers and once they win a lot think everything will fall into place," Wehrley said. "It's a misconception that when you win the title, it's going to be easy. But really winning was just the beginning. I'm very appreciative for it because the title has helped me get into the door. What separates others is whether you'll put the hard work in at the end of the day."
So far, Wehrley has. She moved to Chicago and interned at a couple entertainment and lifestyle news websites and continued to model.
Wehrley said she became "intrigued" by television the summer before her senior year at UW-Madison, when she interned at a news station.
"My goal that year after graduation was not to make the most money or get the most prestigious job," Wehrley said. "It was to be as well-rounded as possible and learn how to write, how to produce and learn all these skills you need to be successful. It's a lot more than just looking good on camera."
Career takes off
Her dedication was rewarded when she earned her first job as a morning news anchor in Rockford, Ill., in early 2011.
"That was the biggest growth opportunity and it's really where I gained a foundation as a journalist," said Wehrley, before quickly acknowledging "I will be the first person to admit that when I started I was very green, and looking back at videos when I first started they're laughable. I was inexperienced but I had a lot of ambition to become better because I had the drive, and now I've come a long way."
More than a year later, Wehrley moved to Oklahoma City where she was the host of an entertainment talk show. She built her résumé and interviewed top celebrities before heading to Texas in October.
She said her ultimate goal is to land a gig on "Good Morning America" or as a host on "E! News" and move to New York City or Los Angeles, the capitals of the entertainment world.
Lara Spencer, a lifestyle anchor for GMA, is "probably the No. 1 person I look up to," she said. Giuliana Rancic, a television personality and co-anchor on "E! News," also is someone she wants to use as a model for her career.
Wehrley said winning Miss Wisconsin helped her career in "indirect ways." It helped her learn how to be a public figure, sharpened her communication skills and allowed her to be a role model. The Miss USA competition also is where she met her agent and where America first got a glimpse of her.
Coming to a theater
While most saw her then on the small screen, she'll soon be on the big screen.
She has been cast as a reporter in the drama "Rudderless." The film was directed by William H. Macy and stars Selena Gomez, Felicity Huffman, Billy Crudup and Macy. It will be released in theaters in spring or summer 2014.
Wehrley said she "absolutely" could see herself doing movies in the future.
When asked about her rapid success, Wehrley said she's followed a simple formula.
"The key," she said, "has been staying very focused on what the end goal is while trying to enjoy the journey."
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