SaNoah LaRocque is a woman who wears many hats and now, she also wears a crown as Miss North Dakota USA.

But life wasn’t always glitz and glam for LaRocque.

“We lived in poverty. So, of course we faced a lot of those adversities that people in those situations would face. My mom, as I mentioned before, was a bit of a free spirit. And kind of exposed my brother and I to situations we probably shouldn’t have been exposed to as children,” said LaRocque.

But LaRocque added that despite an abusive childhood, she was able to find the strength to turn to two trusted people in her life, her grandparents.

“That made all the difference in the world. My grandparents are the most important people in my life. They’re wonderful Native leaders. They both have their doctorates in education. I mean they are trailblazers in every sense of the word,” said LaRocque.

And LaRocque is a trailblazer of her own. She’s an enrolled citizen of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa and became part of a movement to fight for the right to wear an eagle feather at her high school graduation in Grand Forks.

The effort even garnered her recognition from some notable names, such as former First Lady Michelle Obama, who referenced LaRocque by name in a speech she delivered.

A few years ago, a friend encouraged LaRocque to give pageants a try.

“If you watch the clip of me being crowned, my hands are shaking so bad. It looks like I’m vibrating. It was just the most surreal moment and I think looking back, I can’t even really put into words how it felt. But I just knew how much it meant to me as an individual. But it’s so much more than that. It’s not just me who’s wearing this crown or has this opportunity to compete at Miss USA. It’s my community too,” said LaRocque.

In addition to being Miss North Dakota, LaRocque is an accomplished dancer, who studied at Harvard and works as a financial analyst. Throughout her journey, LaRocque has remained close to her roots.

“As far we know, I’m the first Miss North Dakota USA who is an enrolled member of a tribal nation which is very humbling and very exciting at the same time,” said LaRocque.

She noted that she wants to proudly represent the indigenous community, as well as all the people of the Peace Garden State.

“North Dakota’s unique in that we’re one of the states with the highest Native American population and I’m really happy to represent that. But I’m really excited about also connecting with and representing those from Scandinavian and Norwegian backgrounds which is very strong in North Dakota,” said LaRocque.

Given her own childhood experiences, she wants to mentor other youth who may be experiencing their own challenges.

“When you grow up very poor, you just can’t imagine these things. And I want to be able to share that with other kids who may be struggling with feelings of hopelessness or feeling like there’s nothing out there for them,” said LaRocque.

But perhaps most of all, she wants to inspire other young girls who, like her, may have never dreamt of walking across the pageant stage or wearing a crown.

“Native American women aren’t represented in pageantry and so this is something that I really want to kind of break that glass ceiling for so that other Native little girls can look to me and say ‘Ok, she did it. Of course, I can do it too,'” said LaRocque.

LaRocque will represent North Dakota in the Miss USA pageant later this year, though an exact date for the pageant has not yet been set.