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Meet AnnaNoel

Today we’d like to introduce you to AnnaNoel.

AnnaNoel, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
Growing up, I was super active. Started martial arts at the age of four, obtained by black belt by 9, 4 grand championships, and one division belt. After martial arts, I played practically every sport in the book. I always struggled with injuries, I was constantly tearing ligaments and hurting myself, so in mid-middle school, I had to stop playing sports, ESPECIALLY contact sports, that is when I started to find my interest in modeling. Modeling allowed me to still be active and have a creative outlet, without hurting my body. My mom had a pretty successful modeling career; however, she did not do it for long. She never pushed it onto me to start modeling, in fact, it was never really a conversation until I told my mom I wanted to model.

That is when I started going to open calls, doing TONS of free shoots, I just tried to get comfortable in front of the camera, and make connections. I was also working with a recording studio and doing several live performances to further my singing career. I signed with a modeling agency in Northern California, but due to some more health issues, I had to stop. Fast forward another year or two and I got back into modeling and decided to try a pageant. I had NO CLUE what I was doing but somehow made it in the Top 20 at Miss California Teen USA. Once that happened, I figured, “Hmm, maybe I’m not too bad at this.” So, then I went on to compete at a preliminary competition, Miss Santa Monica Teen USA, I placed 2nd Runner Up and won Miss Congeniality. I was so excited! A couple more months of training went by and I competed for the sister pageant, Miss Beverly Hills Teen USA, AND I WON, I also won Miss Congeniality! That is when my life changed, I had so many incredible opportunities, met so many amazing people, and most of all, I was able to share my message and help others. Around six months later it was time for Miss California Teen USA again, my second year, once again I placed Top 20. After I crowned the next Miss Beverly Hills Teen USA, I competed and won Miss Greater San Diego Teen.

This is also when I started my own ending injustice campaign #ItStartsWithMe, I worked with anti-bullying, human trafficking awareness and prevention, helping the homeless, and so many more organizations that are near and dear to my heart. I met the most incredible little girl, Zoey. Zoey has a heart condition and I was able to bring her a crown and sash and hang out with her in the hospital. It turns out it was the first time she had laughed since her heart surgery. Meanwhile, I was continuing my pageant career, I was also working as a freelance model and booked some pretty awesome opportunities! One of my favorites was modeling for Jovani Fashions for a week in Atlanta. During this time, I got so busy with modeling, pageants, school, philanthropy, and more, that unfortunately, my singing career was not getting much attention. I competed for my third time at Miss California Teen USA and once again, placed top 15, BUT, my best friend won! The excitement that went through my body when I heard her name was like I had won; I was so genuinely excited for her. My fourth, and last year in the teen category was now coming up. I decided not to do a preliminary competition and just go straight into state. I dedicated my year to training and also working with as many non-profits as I could. I expanded my campaign #ItStartsWithMe and was able to work with over 20 charitable organizations. I headed into my very last year of competition with no regrets, I was as trained as I could possibly be. I had worked the past four years of my life for this one weekend. I did everything as perfectly as I could, nailed my interview, was confidently beautiful onstage with my dream gown (Jovani Couture), and crushed fitness wear.

During the onstage question, I was able to speak about Zoey, I was more confident than ever. So how did I place? You guessed it! Top 15. I was crushed. For the past four years of my life, I truly worked the hardest I could possibly work for something. However, I was able to achieve the one thing I thought I needed the Miss California Teen USA crown for. I helped SO many people, and that meant everything to me. It goes to show it isn’t about the crown or the sash, it is about the connections and the people you can positively impact. If I only helped one person, it was all worth it. I was crushed and shattered but excited for the next phase of my life, I decided to take modeling even more seriously and sign with an agency. I went to three open calls and one of my dream agencies decided to sign me! Growing up in Northern California I always knew I wanted to live in LA, so during this trip, I started looking at apartments pretty casually. Until I walked into this one and it was absolutely PERFECT. Right then and there, I signed the lease and haven’t looked back. Now I am living my dream life. I couldn’t be more thankful and grateful for the opportunities God has opened up for me. Sometimes when you think you know the perfect path for yourself, the truth is God sees a way better path for you that you just aren’t able to see at the moment.

Overall, has it been relatively smooth? If not, what were some of the struggles along the way?
Throughout the end of elementary school, all of middle school, and the beginning of high school, I dealt with extreme traumatic bullying. Every day I knew going to school was going to be a nightmare. I can’t even begin to explain the torture I went through and how awful some of the kids were. I tried to get help and reach out to teachers, but they did absolutely nothing, in fact, that just made it worse because now I was also a snitch. Verbal bullying quickly turned to cyberbullying, then physical bullying, and then sexual harassment. After trying to get help from teachers and seeing how quickly that backfired on me, I kept my mouth shut, I didn’t tell my parents or really anyone. The abuse continued, day after day, and night after night I cried myself to sleep thinking I was worthless. After three years of this constant pain, depression, anxiety, my body finally had enough.

One day I broke out in a full-body rash, then came a fever, then muscle weakness to the point where I thought I was paralyzed, then screaming nerve pain in my hands and feet, like a million needles were stabbing me. My parents took me to the hospital and they couldn’t figure out anything, none of the symptoms matched up with each other and every blood test came back negative, or abnormal, but not abnormal enough for a diagnosis. They put me on morphine, that didn’t cut the pain, they put me on every other IV pain reliever drip, nothing worked, but Vicodin, Week after week, I became a usual at the hospital. I saw every specialist in the books. Finally, after months of no answers and months of Vicodin, I went to Standford and they had five different specialists observe me for a whole day. One of them was a psychologist. I explained to her my awful night terrors, I would wake up screaming because I was so terrified. Turns out that all of the mental abuse I had suffered for the past three years broke out into my body. After all, your brain is the control center of your entire body.

At that point, I was diagnosed with PTSD and the symptoms of peripheral neuropathy and Raynaud’s phenomenon. This gave me some answers, but not really anything definite because these were just symptoms, not an actual diagnosis. After six months of being on Vicodin, drowsy 24/7 and itchy, but pain-free, we finally found a medication to help my nerve pain, I also got on antidepressants, and off the Vicodin. I did independent study throughout high school because my pain was still happening, although it was better, it always happened in the morning. So, I did independent study so I could sleep through my pain and do my school when I wasn’t hurting. My pain was still so bad I couldn’t hold a pencil. I went all through high school not knowing any true diagnosis. All I knew were my symptoms and that traumatic bullying caused it. I think every human, or almost every human, is afraid of the unknown. I lived in the unknown of my own health for years and years. I was constantly researching because after all, doctors go home at the end of their shift, but the patient lives every second with their condition. About two years ago, I started to notice how dizzy I always was and started to blackout when I got up. My memory isn’t the best from my traumatic years, but my mom tells me I was always dizzy, but everyone thought that was just because of the Vicodin. Dizziness was not really the main focus of symptoms considering I was in screaming pain from ‘needles’ stabbing me. Little did everyone know; the dizziness would be the one symptom that led to my diagnosis. My friend had health issues as well, and although our symptoms were very different, we both had the same dizziness and blacking out issue.

So, I decided to look into her diagnosis, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. Turns out P.O.T.S controls your whole autonomic nervous system, in simpler terms, your whole body, so it has many possible symptoms, just depending on how it affects your body. But the one symptom you must have in order to have P.O.T.S is dizziness and blacking out. So, I made an appointment and barged into the doctor’s office and basically ordered them to do a tilt-table test. They probably thought I was one of those annoying patients that think they know everything from google. But as a teenager, on medication, with no answers for years, I had every right to do my own research. Long story long, it turns out I do have POTS. When my doctor told me, I screamed in joy. She reiterated to me that this is a non-curable chronic illness and I said, “I know! But now I have an answer!” It was that closure I had been searching for, for basically half my life. P.S., now I know that I was always tearing ligaments as a kid because of my new found diagnosis. Now I am able to adjust my lifestyle in order to help my condition, and although I am still on one medication for my nerves, I am off of mood stabilizers and my symptoms are so much more manageable since I know what to do to help them. I now have a community of people I can talk to and we support each other, and greatest of all, I have answers! The moral of the story is to do your own research and never give up hope. Even though this was a lot to go through, it truly made me who I am today, I have been able to share my story and help so many others, because of that, I would do it all again.

What is “success” or “successful” for you?
Success I think differs person to person, but for me, it is to be able to say I have helped people. It is so easy to get so wrapped up in your own life and forget about others. It is important to step back and see what you can do to positively impact someone else’s life. It is crazy the joy it will bring to your heart to see someone else life change because of something you did to help them. That joy is something no materialistic item or thing will ever bring you.

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Image Credit:
Georgina Vaughn Photography, Velvet Cheeks Photography, Bryant Fine Art Portraiture, Luyi Zhao, Tim Mooney, Jay Zakh

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