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MTV ‘MADE’ this tomboy into leading lady

Emily Gjerde sits on top of the mattresses used in the play “Once Upon a Mattress” at the Community Business Expo. She plays the lead, Princess Winifred, in the RFHS and Community Theater production. The play runs Nov. 15-17, 22 and 23. Gjerde said her experience with MTV MADE has helped her learn to be a leading lady.1 / 2
Seventeen-year-old high school senior Emily Gjerde will be featured on an episode of MTV’s MADE. Producers said they don’t know yet when the episode will air. Gjerde said she’s eager to see the result no matter when it’s shown on TV. (River Falls Journal photos by Gretta Stark) 2 / 2

Until last year Emily Gjerde had never walked in high heels. She never wore makeup, and she wore jeans, T-shirts and sweatshirts almost exclusively. 

“People called me Emmett instead of Emily,” Gjerde said.

Then MTV contacted River Falls High School, asking to come to the school to see students. Then Principal Elaine Bauman agreed.

Students were told they could sign up for an interview with the casting director.

When Gjerde’s father Tim Gjerde, an MTV fan, found out, he encouraged Gjerde and her sister Jessica Gjerde, a 15-year-old sophomore, to sign up.

Emily Gjerde, now a 17-year-old high school senior, said she originally signed up to support her sister.

“The auditions were actually really fun,” Gjerde said.

Gjerde, an aspiring actress, wanted to become more “girly” so she could be cast in leading ladies’ roles. She had played men’s roles in her last four plays.

“I don’t need help with acting,” Gjerde said. “I need help with being girly.”

Gjerde thought the interview went well, but she didn’t seriously think she’d be selected. Until MTV called her while she was doing homework one day.

“They just called her on her cell phone, and were like, ‘Would you like to be on MADE?’” said Gjerde’s mother Rachael Gjerde.

MADE features one young adult per episode who wants to achieve a goal – such as becoming a fashion stylist, TV host or pageant contestant.

To help Emily Gjerde become more girly, MADE producers decided to make her into a beauty pageant contestant.

MADE entered Gjerde in a beauty pageant and gave her a coach. Then Gjerde began training for the pageant.

She said learning to be a beauty pageant contestant was not what she expected.

“I’ve really come to appreciate it because some of that stuff was hard,” Gjerde said. “They’re not just walking in heels, guys.”

And learning to walk in heels was hard enough.

Gjerde’s first-ever steps in high heels were on camera front of her coach. They can be seen in an episode preview on MADE’s website,

In the clip, Gjerde stumbles and wobbles her way through her first attempt at a pageant walk. The clip ends with a shot of Gjerde’s toes bleeding. When she stood in her heels, Gjerde said she was thinking: “Dear God, don’t let me fall!”

Gjerde’s lessons weren’t all MTV recorded. To get an idea of what Gjerde’s life was like, a camera crew followed her almost everywhere she went.

“Eventually it just started to feel like the norm, waking up in front of a camera every morning,” Gjerde said. “They told me at the very beginning, ‘You’re gonna get sick of us.’”

The cameras even followed Gjerde to school. As Gjerde got used to the cameras, she started to watch others react to the cameras.

“At the very beginning, everybody was excited.” Gjerde said. “A lot of the students, they’d try to get behind me, get in the shot, wave. Half the time the camera wouldn’t be on.”

High school Principal Kit Luedtke, then assistant principal, said the camera crew was very cooperative and worked well with the school district. After a few days of filming, he said students got used to cameras.

Gjerde said her MADE experience taught her a lot about TV production, the beauty pageant industry and about herself.

“It was a good experience to have in high school, when you’re trying to learn about yourself and what you want to do in the future, because it opened a lot of doors for me,” Gjerde said. “The biggest thing I learned is you have to be comfortable with yourself.”

Gjerde said her favorite part of the experience didn’t have much to do with the show itself.

“It was just all the people I got to meet,” Gjerde said.

She said MADE would take her different places to teach her new things. She would meet new people everywhere she went.

Gjerde said many people have been asking her when the episode is going to air. Unfortunately, she doesn’t know.

In fact, even MTV producers don’t know yet when the episode will air.

The episode was filmed last spring, during March and April. Gjerde said the camera crew filmed days’ worth of footage. She isn’t sure what parts MTV will use for the episode. She said she’s both excited and nervous to see what will make the cut.

Curious viewers will have to wait until the episode airs to find out how Gjerde did in the beauty pageant.

Meanwhile, Gjerde has met her original goal of getting girlier roles and is starring as Princess Winifred in the RFHS and Community Theater production of “Once Upon a Mattress.”

“I actually got a girl role,” Gjerde said. “But she’s a tomboy, which is perfect.”

The play opens at RFHS at 7 p.m. Nov. 15, 16, 22 and 23; and 2 p.m. Nov. 17.

For the full story, please see the Nov. 7 print edition of the River Falls Journal.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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