Gina Mellish, Miss New Jersey USA 2020, sits down with our very own, Trisha, as part of our Queenly Tea Talks Instagram Live series to talk about her journey into the pageant world.
Trisha: So I’m curious! Tell me about winning Miss New Jersey USA.
Gina: After winning Miss New Jersey Teen USA in 2016, it was my dream to compete in Miss USA. So being able to do that has been a dream come true. I can’t believe it’s happening.
T: What differences are you expecting between Miss USA versus Miss New Jersey USA?
G: It is going to be a room filled with powerful women. You know, all these women have won their state title and are very deserving. I am very excited.
T: Some girls dream about being able to compete in Miss USA. You are going to have such a big platform. If you win Miss USA, what are some things that you would want to accomplish?
G: Domestic violence is something that vastly increased with the shelter-in-place order. So many women were forced to spend time with their abusers. So when I saw this, I started to work with local elected officials, officers, social workers, and we implemented something similar to the codeword system in Europe. One of the first things I would love to do is take that to a national level.
T: You are tackling such a real and prominent issue. It’s a conversation that needs to be brought up. I would love to hear about your personal experience and how you became stronger.
G: I am a true believer that vulnerability is not a sign of weakness, but rather a sign of strength. That was a huge inspiration for me to step out and share my story. When I was 16 years old, I found myself in a really toxic relationship. I was taught that domestic violence was always physical, but that’s not the case. I learned about the signs of domestic violence at a sorority workshop my first year in college. Now, I get to teach that workshop to others.
T: Most women go through different relationships and it’s important to have someone (a role model) vocalize important things like this.
T: I have more questions for you: With the rise of fast fashion, how can consumers take a more sustainable approach to this industry?
G: Sustainability is something that I’m super passionate about. It’s on the forefront of the fashion industry. It all starts with doing your own research. And it starts with a company like Queenly. Reselling your clothes. You can also start looking at more ethically sourced products. Everything from pay wage, textile production, and transportation. But it can really be as simple as reselling your dresses.
T: The pageant industry is something that is so glamorized, I never thought I could be part of it. Especially coming from a low-income family. When I started to participate in pageants I always keept on hearing the same three things: 1. How do I find the perfect gown? 2. How can I afford my gown? And 3. What do I do with my gown afterwards? I am very happy to hear you see the sustainability aspect of our company!
Let's take a question from the audience. Someone is asking: Where do you want to travel next?
G: I would love to go back to Italy, but if I’m trying something new, I want to go to Morocco. I would love to camp out in the desert at night. I’ve heard it’s really beautiful.
T: What are some pageant interview tips that you would give to a newcomer?
G: Something that really helps me is trying to train my nerves into excitement. It is such an exciting part being able to show the judges who you are. You only get three minutes and that is it.
T: Let's talk about this year. Did you experience post grad anxiety as a 2020 graduate?
G: Yes, 100 percent. It was hard to have to cut my internship short and move back home. However, I had Miss USA to prep for and that was exciting.
T: Yes I know this year has been a hard one for students. Last question: What are somethings you believe the pageant industry should change moving forward?
G: Someone that I really look up to is Cheslie Kryst who was able to be very vocal about important issues. I think that represents the modern day woman: someone who is able to speak up.
Thank you Gina! Check out the full interview here. Make sure to follow Queenly on Instagram for more exclusive interviews.