With just a few more days until I compete for this year’s Miss USA title while representing my beloved state and home of New Jersey, I’ve been taking the time to reflect on my journey behind the sash. I am currently in Memphis, at Graceland, surrounded by 50 of the most ambitious, beautiful, powerful, and intelligent women in the country.
It is a known fact that there seems to be a negative stigma around pageantry, although I am not sure as to how or why this idea was adopted.
It possibly couldn't have been from the infamous Sandra Bullock movie, Miss Congeniality, of which I am honored to share the title of Miss New Jersey with Gracie Lou Freebush. Who doesn’t love Sandra Bullock?! Much like Miss Congeniality, all of us 51 contestants are each other’s cheerleaders in real life. We cheer for each other’s success, give the best pep talks, and we somehow secured spots in our future bridal parties! There is no fighting over shoes or makeup, in fact, you can most likely find us sharing those! 
Miss USA brings together incredible women from across the country, with the common denominator of service and passion. As a young girl, I aimed to surround myself with like-minded women as motivation to develop a strong work ethic to fulfill my wildest dreams. The Miss Universe Organization has given me the ability to do just that. Having the honor of being Miss New Jersey USA has been an incredibly empowering and humbling experience, and gave me the opportunity to blossom into a woman I could have only dreamt of becoming.
By developing the courage and confidence to share my story with relationship abuse as a teen, I became a voice for survivors and now have the ability to show women everywhere that no matter what obstacles life throws at us, we can always overcome with a little grit and grace. 
Throughout my year as Miss New Jersey USA, I have been able to educate hundreds of young women and men, both in person and virtually in the age of Covid, on the signs of unhealthy relationships through workshops with the One Love Foundation, while also giving them the tools to recognize what healthy love looks like.
I always dreamt of walking the Miss USA stage, but now, I can grace the stage with a strong sense of purpose in my step. 
My purpose being to educate others on how to identify the unhealthy signs in relationships and instill the confidence in young women to know they are worthy and deserving of healthy and beautiful love. Love is one of the most important things in our life. It drives many of our decisions and dreams, yet we are taught so little about it or how to navigate it. In just a few short days, I will be taking my story and the voices of so many other survivors to the national platform of the Miss USA stage.
This year has been one of strength and vulnerability along the journey of publicly sharing my story, and still shining a positive light on healthy love. Young women are in need of role models that are honest and candid about healthy relationships, whether it be platonic, romantic, with our family, and even the relationship with ourselves. I am beyond excited to wear the “New Jersey” sash across my chest and represent my beautiful state, but more importantly, represent the 1 in 3 women who will experience relationship abuse in her life and have the courage and confidence to stand up and keep fighting. 
My mother always told me that, we, women are most powerful when we work together to achieve a common goal.  In just a few hours, I will be surrounded by 50 of the most incredible women in the country, to empower, inspire, and uplift other women across the country.
Women are often told what they ‘can’ or ‘can’t’ be in life, and pageantry has helped to shatter that.
It allows women to showcase that we are multifaceted and multidimensional. It has torn down barriers and allowed women of every background to display their goals and accomplishments, and come together to support one another while achieving our wildest dreams. 
Tune into FYI November 9th 8PM EST to watch me represent New Jersey at Miss USA 2020!
Graphic design by Emily Yen. 


Gina Mellish