360 degrees with former Miss Texas, Ashley Melnick

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    Senior broadcast journalism major Ashley Melnick took a year off of school from TCU after being crowned Miss Texas in 2010. Now back on campus, Melnick shares with TCU 360 some of her experiences under the spotlight, embarrassing moments, what it's like returning to campus, and how an amazing year helped shape her goals for her future. Melnick finished in the top 12 at the Miss America Pageant in January.

    Name: Ashley Melnick

    Age: 22

    Hometown: Southlake

    1. How does it feel to be back on campus?
    “It’s surreal. It’s sad to think about the year that I’ve had because what I loved about it is that I was constantly growing and meeting new people, which is fun. You never knew what was going to happen. Now I’m back to class, and I like to learn, but it’s very routine and I’m not used to a structured day, like school. It’s an adjustment, but it’s nice to be on campus and let my hair down.”

    2. What is something you would have never had the opportunity to do if you weren’t Miss Texas?
    “Meeting new people. The variety of people that I’ve met, whether it was at a small county fair or a hospital or visiting the Rio Grand for a week and being in a completely different cultural setting than I’m accustomed to. I learned a lot about myself and my goals and about other people. What’s really neat is that there’s such a variety of people in the state of Texas, yet they all call themselves Texans, and that’s what really makes Texas so unique. We really are like our own country. ”

    3. What is something most people don’t know about competing in pageants?
    “It’s not as glamorous as you’d think. The day of the Miss Texas pageant is the peak of glamour, and then of course Miss America, but during the rest of the time, I get dirty. I’m playing with kids, people are throwing things in my hair, I’m posing with livestock. You’re a servant to the state of Texas. You serve the state and it’s not about the crown and the glamour and the clothes, it’s about reaching out to people and using the crown as a microphone for your platform.”

    4. What is something most people don’t know about you?
    “I feel like people don’t realize how quirky and extremely goofy I am. This past year I was really able to embrace who I am. Even though people expect Miss Texas to be poised and have grace, it’s ok to be who you are at the same time. For example, I was at the Fort Worth rodeo eating at a big table in front of everyone, and they served tamales. I’d never had a tamale, and I didn’t know to pull off the corn husk. I bit right into it with my crown and sash on. All at once everyone just went ‘Oooh.’ It was pretty embarrassing; Miss Texas doesn’t know how to eat a tamale at a rodeo.”

    5. What are some of the cool perks of being Miss Texas?
    “As far as sponsorships, I had an apartment for a year. I had a Lexus that I got to rotate out every 5000 miles. I do a lot of driving so I was always testing out a new Lexus which was always fun. It’s also a paying job, and it allowed me to really expand on my speaking skills and be able to roll with the punches. That was a perk to me, to really be able to work on my communication skills.”

    6. What message do you think you got across to your audience about your platform, Autism Speaks?
    “That you should be accepting of what God gives you in life. My brother has autism and I never said ‘Why me?’ I never questioned why I was given a brother who has autism or wanted him cured or not; I just want him to have the best life possible. I feel like that’s a general statement that everyone can embrace and apply to their life. A lot of people would come up to me and say, ‘Wow, I thought I had it hard, but I don’t.” A lot of people can learn from Ryan’s story. If anything, I’m known for being a motivational speak and then I use my story to tie into my themes throughout my speeches. Typically, because I was a spokeswoman for Texas Cares for Children, I was speaking to kids, elementary schools, middle schools and some high schools.”

    7. When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
    “A singer. It’s therapeutic, and it’s fun, and it’s a way you can convey a message through a song and through music. I think you can really captivate someone through instruments and music, where as if you’re just speaking, sometimes people can’t always connect with you.”

    8. What do you want to be now?
    “This is a tossup. I still want to pursue journalism, but as Miss Texas and sharing my platform, I realize what it feels like to have a fulfilling job. It’s contagious and addicting. I just want a job that will be a service and be fulfilling. I think journalism can be fulfilling for me, but I want to do something with autism, whether that be opening a nonprofit or just doing fundraising with a nonprofit already established. I’ve met owners of nonprofits who have contacts in D.C. and who will help me when I get there. I have a huge bin of contacts from this year that I try to sort through.”

    9. How did it feel to crown Kendall Morris, another Horned Frog, in the 2011 Miss Texas pageant?
    “I think it’s really special to share that with her. We have a closer relationship that way, we’re both Horned Frogs. I get so many comments from people saying, ‘What’s up with TCU?’ It says a lot about the school and I hope it really increases the visibility of it.”

    10. What are you excited to do again now that you’re not Miss Texas?
    “I’m not under a spotlight all the time as far as people saying, ‘You’re not allowed to wear jeans,’ or, ‘You have to have makeup on at all times; you can’t wear a baseball hat.’ It’s nice to just relax and not have to tell my business manager where I am at all times. I didn’t own my life, I was under a contract. If I asked for a day off and my business manager called and said someone needed me, I had to just get up. It’s nice to have freedom and time to breathe.”

    This fall Ashley will resume her senior year at TCU. She will spend the semester in Washington D.C. with the Schieffer School in Washington where she will intern at CBS’s Face the Nation. She plans to graduate May 2012 with a degree in broadcast journalism.