Hermantown teen meets her ‘Top Model’ hero

Don’t be surprised if Molly McGovern throws out a “smize” the next time a camera lands on her. The Hermantown teen has recently spent time with the world’s foremost expert of “smiling with your eyes” — Tyra Banks.

McGovern, 19, and her family took a trip to Los Angeles in mid-March through the Kids Wish Network. The trip included touring the Walk of Fame in Hollywood, fine dining, double cheek kisses from celebs and — the main event — a trip to the set of Banks’ TV reality talent show, “America’s Next Top Model.”

“She’s always been a person I’ve looked up to,” said McGovern. “I told her that she’s really shown me that I can do anything I set my mind to. I always follow that.”

McGovern, a 2012 graduate of Hermantown High School, said she has been a fan of Banks since she was 10. She has cerebral palsy and is quadriplegic and has sometimes spent time in hospitals watching marathons of “Top Model,” which works with young amateur models to discover the next big thing.

“I was kind of freaking out,” McGovern admitted. “I was really nervous and about to cry at the same time.”

McGovern and her family spent about eight hours backstage at a taping of an episode from Cycle 20, which is scheduled to begin airing in May. They saw the contestants, met the judges and McGovern, and her sisters Annie and Sophie got “Top Model”-style makeovers. There were about 11 models left in the competition when they visited, but she wouldn’t dish on the details.

“It was kind of surreal,” McGovern said. “They’re just normal people.”

There were also limo rides, comfortable hotel beds, decadent desserts and a trip to Madame Tussauds, a wax museum in Hollywood where McGovern posed with John Travolta’s likeness.

She also got her first tattoo at a shop on Hollywood Boulevard, a purple lotus and the words “Let it be,” a catchphrase from her late grandmother.

“It hurt a little, but I’ve gone through worse,” she said.

Kathy McGovern, Molly’s mother, said they filled out the Kids Wish Network application last year. The organization grants wishes to kids in life-altering situations. The family was contacted this past summer to say the wish to meet Tyra had been granted and that it would happen in the spring.

“It almost seems like it didn’t happen,” Kathy McGovern said. “You kind of wonder what people in that capacity are like. You don’t think they’re going to have anything to do with you. But it’s not like that at all. They treated us really well. … Tyra’s a lot of fun. She’s got a really good personality.”

McGovern is in her first year at Lake Superior College with plans to eventually work with special education students. She has done a bit of modeling locally and is interested in doing more — especially now that she’s learned a few tricks from one of the best.

Duluth News Tribune
Hermantown, Minnesota

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Kids Wish Network is a charitable organization dedicated to infusing hope, creating happy memories, and improving the quality of life for children having experienced life-altering situations. Kids Wish Network assists children and their families through several key programs.