Hanley House lives by the phrase, “Always be ready!” The Cleveland High junior’s father instilled that notion in her at an early age. Although she didn’t quite understand it at first, as she has gotten older House is beginning to understand its meaning. And it has never been more pertinent than at this moment in her life.
Over the summer, House was named Miss North Carolina’s Teen 2023. Unlike most young women who compete in these types of events, this was only House’s second pageant…ever. On a whim, during her sophomore year, House decided to participate in the Miss Cleveland pageant.
Many of her childhood friends were in pageants, and House just wanted to see what it was all about. She already had the clothes, a talent (dance), and she was well-spoken. So, she thought to herself, “What have I got to lose?” That attitude along with the goal of having fun, set her apart.
Although she did not place in that pageant, Cleveland High Assistant Principal and Miss Cleveland Teen Pageant Coordinator Cora Godwin knew she couldn’t let House slip by. Being involved in pageants for the last 40 years, Godwin has developed a keen eye for talent. “I just knew there was something different about her,” Godwin said.
The most notable thing that stood out to Godwin was House’s humility. So, as soon as the competition was over that evening, Godwin made a b-line to talk with House about another upcoming pageant, Miss North Carolina’s Teen. She decided to enter this time with a bigger goal. “I wanted to be in the top 15,” she said. House smashed her goal by winning the pageant and being crowned Miss North Carolina’s Teen. To say it was a surprise would be a colossal understatement.
Even though it was only House’s second time competing in a pageant, she is no stranger to the spotlight. At 10 years old, she was being accepted into prestigious dance academies around the country, including Alonzo King Lines Ballet in San Francisco, and Joffrey Ballet School in New York City.
This meant she would need additional expenses to continue following her dream of being a dancer. At age 10, she would post her gently used clothing for sale online to make money to help pay for dance classes.
Then at the tender age of 11, House started her own business, Two Little Blondes, making vinyl stickers to help offset some of those costs.
Today, Two Little Blondes has grown from vinyl stickers to matching pajama sets with monograms, and baskets for holidays, birthdays, and bridal party gifts. House’s biggest support came from her Cleveland community, especially her teachers, which is why she is so deeply committed to giving back to them. “They have rallied around me nonstop,” she said. That is one of the greatest things about her Johnston County Public Schools experience. House loves how invested folks are, not just in education, but with teaching life skills, and building relationships.
House has developed a community service initiative entitled Passion to Profit, as one of her responsibilities as Miss North Carolina’s Teen. When House began her business and was a sole proprietor, she learned not only how to make money, but real world skills, too. Those skills include time management, leadership, brand marketing, community reinvestment, and teamwork. House believes a lot of today’s teens are lacking in those areas, and wants to help her peers be the best version of themselves.
Using her platform, House plans to educate teens about those real world skills with her “5 Steps To Becoming A Successful Entrepreneur”. Those steps are: 1. Find your passion, 2. Recognize your community, 3. Advertise and Marketing Your Passion, 4. Know the True Meaning of Profit, and 5. Take Action.
Through her business, House has been able to donate $1,000 for the American Heart Association (AMA) through the Johnston County Health Foundation. She chose AMA for a very personal reason. When House was five years old, her grandfather died of heart disease. As fate would have it, January 28 was the date that she competed and won Miss Cleveland Teen.
As a student at Cleveland High, House is taking every opportunity available to better herself. She is goal-oriented because she understands that high school is the last step before becoming a young adult . “JCPS is doing a great job offering all different skills within a school setting,” House commented.
She was accepted into the Career and College Promise Program (CCP), which allows eligible high school students the opportunity to earn college credits, building their college transcripts while still in high school. CCP is a partnership between Johnston County Public Schools, and Johnston Community College, just one of several choice programs the district offers.
She plans to study architecture and interior design in college, as well as earn a business degree. As a child, she enjoyed rearranging her doll house more than actually playing with the dolls. Then, as she grew, she began downloading interior design software. Now, she is a full blown Home and Garden Television (HGTV) fanatic, with her eyes set on doing interior design in the corporate world. “I want to make functional spaces,” she said, “and make them pretty.”
She plans to study architecture, interior design, and business. House hopes to fulfill her biggest dream of going to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and to be on their dance team. Once she has graduated college, she wants to have her own interior design business, and has recently been tossing around the idea of going into National Basketball Association dance.
For the moment, she is focused on competing in the upcoming Miss America’s Teen. “That is my biggest dream right now, unexpectedly” she said.
House will travel all over the state this year, while keeping up with her schoolwork, and practicing dance. She has set a lofty goal of visiting each of the 100 counties in the state, sharing her experience with the Miss America Organization. For example, House has a full-ride scholarship to 7 different universities, along with nearly $9,000 in scholarships just from winning Miss North Carolina’s Teen, which is part of the Miss America Organization.
Her father’s words of wisdom have guided her this far, and will continue to guide her in the future. “I have always lived in a fearless mindset, and this journey has fueled my mindset in a way of becoming more dedicated, committed, and stronger,” House remarked.