Small town girl from the Midwest with stunning looks climbs her way up to winning beauty and fitness pageants left and right, becomes Ms. Model Universe, moves to Los Angeles, and living the celebrity dream. That’s one way you could word Melissa Cary’s story but then you would be bypassing the qualities that makes her a lightning rod for these special opportunities in life – her extremely down-to-earth nature (a very pleasant surprise once you get over the stunning person in front of you!), deep empathy for others that has been matured through many of life’s ups and downs, and lastly the brains and drive to create her own path. Many beautiful women will have various opportunities open to them but few have had the acumen to make the opportunities a reality, like Melissa.
Melissa is one of my favorite people that I’ve met along the way when I used to compete in physique shows… there’s something to say about this super accomplished mother-of-2 with Midwest charm and sharing starry eyed stories of life’s adventures since each of our last meetups. So much fun!
I was really happy for the opportunity to work together a couple of months ago to shoot a very elaborate fashion/editorial photoshoot in southern California. The entire shoot was fully supported with two hair stylists, two clothing stylist, makeup artist, and myself on a gorgeous estate. The resulting images were just spactacular I’m proud to share them with you here, along with an interview with Melissa.
How does one get to live the Fitness Cinderella experience, raise a full household, a career, and entrepreneurial activities, as told by a woman who is walking the walk.
1. Can you tell us about yourself?
I am a small, farm town girl from Illinois who is a self-proclaimed nerd. I love my family and friends and would do anything for them. I love God and I love to read; teaching myself new things as much as possible. I know how to milk a cow and a goat and most people don’t believe me. I am completely in awe of the wonderful blessings that I have in my life and all the amazing things I have been able to complete n my life so far. I have the most amazing children any mother could ever ask for. They keep me laughing at all times and challenge me everyday. I have learned more about true love, happiness, pain and grief, sacrifice and undying loyalty over the past 2.5 years, than I ever thought was possible in an entire lifetime. I hope that reading this interview allows you to see some of my little nuances and some of the things that would inspire you to become a better you.
2. Have you always been active? Did you play any sports growing up?
Yes I have… However, I have had a few back injuries that sidelined me minimally. I played basketball, softball, ran track, cheerleading and my REAL love… I played volleyball.
3. When did you become involved in fitness and when did you make the decision to compete in Fitness Competitions?
What inspired or motivated you to pursue fitness the way you have? M- I became involved in fitness because of my passion for working out. After leaving high school and organized sports I felt a huge void. I had my first baby in 2000 and was finding it hard to deal with the changes in my body post pregnancy and getting that pre-baby body back. One day I was talking to my dear friend , Jenny Hartle, who had been competing in figure for a few years already in 2001. She urged me to compete with her in an upcoming show in Phoenix, AZ less than six weeks away. So, I made a decision to find someone who could train me and decided to do it! Less than six weeks later I stepped on stage as a new mom and a new competitor and placed third. I was hooked and decided this was something I wanted to do. That day forever changed my life.
4. You lost younger brother, Timothy Paul Jones to a heart disease 2 months before you won Model Universe. Since then, you’ve been dedicated to raise heart disease awareness. How do you educate the public, especially young people about this? What should they do to prevent it?
From December 2008 through March 2009 it was absolutely the HARDEST few months of my life. There were several life changing, tragic events that culminated with the sudden death of my baby brother. I thought, ‘How could I go on?’ ‘How do I breathe, let alone be a mother, friend, sister, daughter?’ ‘How can this be happening?’ ‘I don’t want to do this anymore, it would be easier to give up.’ All these questions and thoughts and a million more consumed me for quite sometime. The only thing that I KNEW to do was train without having to think. It was the only thing that was still ‘routine’ or ‘the same’ in my world at the time. So, it is how I found comfort. It was all I could do to just keep some sense of normalcy in my life, if that is what you would call it.
Through this terrible loss I have found a new passion and desire to TEACH people and to share Tim’s story. The more people know that heart disease is NOT an older person’s disease the more lives can be saved. Every time I am asked to do a photo shoot for our fitness magazines, attend a trade show or just in people emailing me asking about my motivation… I tell his story. I tell every person who I know or even don’t know is high risk to GET CHECKED early. Tim was only 27 and appeared to be healthy on the outside. Hence, the old cliche, don’t judge a book by its cover. No one knew the danger on the inside of his body or we could have prevented it. Heart disease is 100% preventable even if you have a genetic predisposition to it.
I have been working diligently to incorporate the warning signs and many different educational links into my new website which will be launching in January 2012. His story along with other inspirational stories will be included in this section of my site. If someone has a story that they feel would inspire someone else to get healthy please send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
5. Do you think Fitness Models should be considered as today’s Role Models?
I do feel that fitness models should be considered role models. Unfortunately, the ‘modeling’ industry as a whole doesn’t have the best reputation because of the completely superficial qualities that are considered when hiring a model for a specific job. This has created a lot of insecurities within women and men alike.
Models go to extreme measures to create and maintain a look that their team of people have suggested would make them desirable and ‘bookable’ within their genre. However, what I love about the fitness side of things is that we break that mold. It is about a healthy, fit look that casting agents are looking for. This does sometimes limit the work that we can do but it makes for a much happier, healthier model!! This is who I would want my daughter to pattern herself after. I would not want her to go into the industry trying to conform the ‘ideals’ of what most people want. I want her to be healthy and not KILL herself trying to fit into a size 0!
6. As a mother of 2, how do you stay in shape? How do you find the time to keep up with your training and eating regime?
This is the million dollar question and if I had an exact recipe I would be a millionaire. I work within my reality. So, this means if football is on Mondays and Wednesdays and dance is on Tuesdays and Fridays then I have to cook on Sundays and Thursdays. This also means I have to train in the morning because after school and work it is even more chaotic! The next month the schedule may be completely different. Being a single mother is absolutely one of the hardest jobs in america. I have the utmost respect for all the women who not only workout but compete who have children.
My BIGGEST piece of advice is to make it a non-negotiable! It is just like work… you HAVE to go. Also, DO NOT guilt yourself if you miss a day or go off your diet for the day. Just remember tomorrow is ALWAYS a new day where you can make a fresh start.
7. What was your experience getting back into shape after pregnancy? Any lessons learned to share with new moms?
My experience was tough post pregnancy. Little known to anyone I was actually a size 14 six weeks after having my son from a size 4. I DID NOT pop right back into my skinny jeans and cute tops. I was still wearing my maternity clothing 3 months after!! Do not get discouraged… my saying on this is, ‘It took 9 months to put the weight on and it may take 9 months to get it off.’ If you can only imagine the mental aspect of being a size 14, when you have NEVER had to worry about your weight it is emotionally difficult.
The biggest lesson I learned was to not be so hard on yourself. Take it one day at a time and focus on getting yourself into a good routine. If you are breast feeding, DO NOT cut your calories to low or you will not be able to produce enough breast milk and this can compromise your babies health and nutrition that is vital. It is better to sacrifice this short period of time in your life for their health… trust me it is only temporary. Before you blink they will be walking and talking and you will wish you had those moments back.
8. Can you give a sample physique-friendly recipe that your kids enjoy?
My kids LOVE eating healthy… and they are BIG snackers. So, I keep all kinds of organic treats around for them to have. Between that and fruit my kids would never actually sit down and eat unless I made them. The one thing that cracks me up is when my son (who is now 11) hits up the kitchen for his brown rice cakes with natural peanut butter! Or… when my daughter (who is now 8) walks into my bedroom after hearing her in the kitchen with a bowl of washed and cut up fruit saying, ‘Mommy, I made you a healthy snack.’
9. Any advice for parents who want to help their children develop healthy fitness habits?
Developing fitness habits in children at a young age is very easy. Children are moldable and you can influence them tremendously by your actions or non-actions. You don’t have to say much it is strictly what you expose them to and what you allow them to do. I tend to NOT be the drill sergeant when it comes to what they eat or the activities they do. I do not believe in ‘training’ children under the age of 16. Just keep them active. Let them play outside as much as possible and limit their time sitting in front of television or video games. Sports are a great way to keep them moving and it also is a great emotional outlet for children. My biggest piece of advise is to BE the example. Don’t talk about what you want them do, DO what you want them to do.
10. You now work as a Senior Consultant with Neuro Drinks. For those who don’t know much about it, can you tell us about the company? How did it company get started?
Yes, I absolutely love being a part of the Neuro team. We are a functional beverage company. The company’s founder was diligent in the process of creating a beverage that was great tasting, truly functional and healthy for you after having an adverse reaction to a well known energy drink. She sought out a chief scientist, Chris Noonan, who could help her develop our first product Neuro Sonic and this is where the journey began.
11. How many products does Neuro Drinks currently have? Do you have a favorite product?
About Neuro® – The Operating System for Life™Neuro delivers a system of drinks developed to upgrade your life. Each drink is formulated by leading experts in the areas of nutrition & food science, neurocognitive research, and clinical nutrition, to include a blend of essential vitamins, minerals, amino acids and proprietary dietary ingredients to enhance specific aspects of our lives: When life is boring, NeuroGasm; When we’re mentally foggy, NeuroSonic; When we’re tossing and turning, NeuroSleep; When the clouds take over, NeuroSun; When our thirst can’t be quenched, NeuroAqua; When we’re stressed, NeuroBliss; When we sweat it all out, NeuroSport; When we slack on our diets, NeuroTrim.
Neuro is the convergence of true function and flavor that creates an operating system for life optimizing everything from brainpower to willpower. To satisfy your thirst for perfection, Neuro is available at premium retailers nationwide and in the United Kingdom.For more information please visit www.drinkneuro.com or facebook.com/drinkneuro. Neuro Sun is my favorite product because I have a Vitamin D insufficiency. It helps to supplement my levels and keep them elevated.
12. With all you have going on in your life, how do you create balance? How do you find time for you? What advice do you have for other women who are trying to balance their time between busy lifestyle and family?
Creating balance is always tough. I refer back to your previous question #6… create your own perfect sense of reality. Everyone has simple things that make them happy. For example, I love to read in bed and I love to take candlelit baths. They do not require a ton of time and they don’t have to happen everyday but if I can manage to get it in at least twice a week it allows me to recoup. I hate to say it; sometimes schedules don’t allow for it on a regular basis so you need to squeeze it in when it is easiest for you.
13. Would you like to share something else with our readers that we haven’t discussed on our interview?
I just have one thing to share… Don’t let your past dictate your future. Yesterday is gone so, don’t look back. Just because you may have not made the best decision or choice at some point does not mean that you cannot move past it and achieve even greater things. Keep pushing forward.
14. What’s next for you? Do you have any future projects in the works?
So much is going on in my world it would be tough to cover it all in one answer. I am currently working on some independent projects within the fitness field and reality television. Launching a new fitness product, with partners, mid next year! I am super excited about that. Still working hard modeling and hostessing and expanding my personal brand.
15. Any shout outs? Where can we find you on the internet?
You can find me on the internet at melissacary.com