Feature Photos

A shy beauty finds her voice

By From page A1 | July 04, 2012

Miss Teen Sacramento Merrin Casl, 13, of El Dorado Hills says being honest is the best way to impress the judges. Village Life photo by Pat Dollins

Newly crowned Miss Teen Sacramento Merrin Casl confessed she’s not very good at interviews.

But the redheaded ballet dancer’s straight talk with judges at the recent competition won the crown in her division. Though, it should be noted, she’s a little shy when talking about it with the local press.

“She’s just real,” said proud mom Kristin Villasenor. “She doesn’t pull any punches. She tells it like it is … and she thinks before she talks.”

Here’s how it is: Merrin outshone seven other contestants at the June 16 pageant and will spend the next year serving as a positive role model for young women all over California. As the reigning Miss Teen Sacramento she will make more than 25 public appearances (she’s already been in a parade, perfecting that beauty queen wave) and contribute 40 hours of community service.

With this platform Merrin, sponsored by RJRuby Productions and Mercedes-Benz of El Dorado Hills, will shed light on two causes close to her heart.

She proudly wears two anti-bullying bracelets. Older brothers Quintin Casl, 16, and Zennin Casl, 14, endured bullying in their early school days, Villasenor noted. Merrin,  home-schooled since third grade but attending Pleasant Grove Middle School as an eighth-grader this fall, said she has not been a bullying victim but knows plenty of friends, along with her brothers, who have been hurt by bullies.

Her second cause hasn’t received as much press as bullying but has equally importance. Merrin has Celiac Disease, causing her body to negatively react to any gluten from wheat, rye, barley and oats. Doctors diagnosed Merrin at age 8 and since she has adhered to a strict diet. As Miss Teen Sacramento she plans to hold a fundraiser for the Celiac Disease Foundation, “a non-profit, public benefit corporation dedicated to providing services and support regarding Celiac Disease and Dermatitis Herpetiformis, through programs of awareness, education, advocacy and research,” according to its website.

When she’s not representing her community Merrin will likely be dancing. She’s performed with Pamela Hayes Classical Ballet for the last five years. Last year she was Big Mouse and a Russian Dancer in “The Nutcracker.”

“I like performing on stage,” Merrin said. “It’s fun and I get to do it with my friends.”

This winter Merrin will again take the stage as a contestant at the Miss Teen International competition in Los Angeles.

This time she has a little more time to prepare for the interview, sportswear, evening gown and fun fashion categories. Her mother surprised her with the Miss Teen Sacramento entry just weeks before the competition. “Without telling me she signed me up,” the teen said, darting a mischievous glance at Mom.

Villasenor just laughed, explaining that she and Merrin had gone back and forth for several years about competing in local pageants. When the opportunity came via a last-minute e-mail, Villasenor just couldn’t pass it up. “But it worked out,” she noted, staring at her daughter’s crown.

And Merrin might not be the only family member to wear the sparkling headpiece. Little sister Alexandra Villasenor, 7, said she’s considering becoming a queen herself someday.

Merrin’s advice to her sister and others entering a pageant: “Be real. Don’t lie about anything.”

That earned a high five from Mom.

Noel Stack


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