Recently, the New Mexico Jewish Link sat down with Melissa-Lou Ellis, New Mexico’s first ever Jewish pageant winner of the title Miss New Mexico. She is a 22-year-old who graduated in May 2017 with a double B.A. in media arts and business from the University of New Mexico with honors.
Granddaughter of Joan and Larry Ellis and daughter of Steven and Debbie Ellis, Melissa grew up being as an active member of Albuquerque’s Jewish community. She attended Solomon Schechter Day School, attended Hebrew school at Congregation Albert and even became the vice-president of Hillel at UNM.
Ellis has also been very active in the film industry in New Mexico. She is an on-set production assistant for television shows and movies including Longmire, The Maze Runner, Blood Father, Preacher, and The Night Shift.
She began her involvement with America’s National Pageant Organization in 2017 when she entered and, much to her surprise, won her first state title of America’s National Miss New Mexico for 2018.
Ellis said: “I truly never expected to win a state title, let alone during my first pageant. I have a few friends who are title holders in different pageant organizations, that have been pushing me for years to compete. Finally, this year, I decided that I would. … because I graduated and had time to practice.”
As she was growing up, Ellis explains: “I was never the ‘pretty girl,’ but rather the overweight-tomboy-type who refused to wear dresses. That definitely made things hard for me, but I always knew I wanted to rise above that. I was constantly teased and bullied all the way through high school, because I wasn’t exactly a size 2 and never really was that into fashion. I also experienced severe anti-Semitism when I entered high school causing me to feel really badly about myself and I never thought I’d recover.”
Things started to change in the summer before her freshman year of college, when Ellis decided to try to overcome some of the profound challenges in her life, and started to take better care of herself. “I started eating right, doing my hair, and making myself feel the best I possibly could without caring what others truly thought, because I was doing this for me. I continued on … and it truly made me feel better — both mentally and physically.”
After years of being tormented by bullies, Ellis explained: “I never, ever expected to win the crown, but rather did it to prove to myself that I could. To show myself, and others, how far I truly had come and that no one could make me feel bad about myself anymore no matter how much they tried.”
As a result of her own suffering, Ellis is dedicating her crown to “all of those boys and girls who have never felt good enough about themselves, because of bullying.”
She explained: “I’m doing this, because I truly do understand how difficult it is to face the individuals who put you down, and how hard it is to overcome all of the negativity. I whole-heartedly believe that everyone is capable of great things, no matter what.”
Reflecting on her journey so far, Ellis said: “If I had to give someone advice on life, I’d have to say to just be whatever you want and do whatever makes you feel the best, because life is too short to not be happy and the people who put you down truly won’t matter in the long run.”
Ellis adores the TV show The Golden Girls, which she used to watch with her own grandmother, Joan Ellis, of blessed memory. Currently, she is writing a reboot for the series that she dreams of producing one day. In fact, a line spoken by Estelle Getty’s character stands out for her. Quoting from the show, she said: “‘People waste their time pondering whether a glass is half empty or half full. Me, I just drink whatever’s in the glass.’ This means just go out and create your own happiness no matter what!”
In her free time, Ellis enjoys managing her new foodie and fashion Instagram account, spending time with loved ones, and volunteering whenever she can. In addition to standing with those who have faced bullying and discrimination, Ellis’ platform for her year as Miss New Mexico advocates for animal adoption, with the goal of finding every pet a loving home.