TCU senior and reigning Miss Texas Ashley Melnick, 21, represented Texas in the first night of preliminaries for the 2011 Miss America Pageant in Las Vegas.
Preliminaries for the pageant began Tuesday and will end Thursday, narrowing the competition to the top 15 contestants to compete in the finale Saturday, according to the Miss America website. The pageant will be televised live via the ABC television network.
Jan Mitchell, Ashley’s business manager, said preliminaries included talent, fitness, evening wear and an interview. For the talent portion of the preliminaries, Ashley will sing “I Surrender” by Celine Dion, Mitchell said.
Ashley’s mother, Terri Melnick, said that to prepare for the pageant, Ashley worked out two to three times a day, traveled to New York and Florida for wardrobe and worked with her personal trainer and nutritionist to stay in top shape.
Mitchell said Ashley had also been so busy that both cell phones she carried were always off. She was unavailable for comment and did not return phone calls, voicemails or text messages at the time of publication.
Ashley could not do interviews at this time and could only send quick text messages consisting of a few words to Mitchell at night, Mitchell said.
“She is pretty much not allowed to talk on the telephone,” Mitchell said.
Terri Melnick said that after competing in the Miss Texas pageant three times, Ashley won the title in 2010. Ashley also made more than 400 public appearances in the past year, she said.
Paige Allen, a junior communication studies major and close friend of Ashley’s, said she would travel to Las Vegas to support her friend. Allen said she thought the business of pageantry could be tricky, but that Ashley was passionate about what she did and remained determined.
“I think she has a very good chance [to win] because she is very true to her heart, and she is a very genuine person,” Allen said. “She really has what it takes, and I definitely believe she can get it.”
Terri Melnick said during Ashley’s time in pageants, Ashley had spoken about the impact her autistic brother, Ryan Melnick, 26, had on her life. Ashley’s platform for the pageants was The Voice of Autism, for which she worked to raise awareness about the disorder.
“I never really realized how much Ryan had an influence on her and made her driven,” Terri Melnick said. “I never realized how much of an impact having a handicapped brother has on her life and how much he means to her.”
Terri Melnick added that Ashley also talked about her childhood, about constantly moving, about being the new girl in school and about having to prove herself over and over.
John Tisdale, associate director of the Schieffer School of Journalism and a former professor of Ashley’s, said she was an excellent student. The pageant reflected well on Ashley, on the university and on the Schieffer School, he said.
“I am proud of her and her accomplishments. She is poised and a smart student,” Tisdale said. “She is going to do really well. She’s a winner.”
Tisdale, Terri Melnick and Mitchell all said they thought being a broadcast journalism major helped Ashley in the interview portion of her pageants.
Although Ashley took a year off from school to fulfill her commitments as Miss Texas, she planned to return to the university to finish up her senior year, Terri Melnick said. Depending on the turnout of the Miss America pageant, she would return next fall or in the fall of 2012.