An Interview with Veteran and TRUE Model Melinda
Happy Veteran’s Day!
Today is Veteran’s Day – a time to honor and recognize all those who have served our country. TRUE Model Management is proud to represent models that are also U.S. veterans. Below is an exclusive interview with one of TRUE’s own, Melinda. From serving our country to modeling to creating a powerful body-positivity movement on social media, Melinda dedicates herself 100% and pours her heart into all that she does. Learn more about Melinda’s service and upcoming goals in our exclusive interview below!
1. You are a U.S. Veteran; can you tell us a little about your service?
MP: I attended the US Naval Academy, where I was a member of the varsity crew team. I graduated and received my commission as a Naval Officer in 2007. At the time of graduation, I had just undergone two major back surgeries, so instead of going straight to my ship (I had orders as a Surface Warfare Officer to the USS Rodney M. Davis in Everett, Washington) I remained at the Academy on Limited Duty status, doing writing instruction in the English Department. After 18 months of LIMDU, I was medically discharged as a Service-Disabled Veteran.
What inspired you to join the military?
MP: I wanted to serve. I wanted to make a difference, and I wanted to fight for America. I am from a very patriotic, pro-military family so I was aware of the Service Academies from an early age and to me, the Naval Academy represented the ultimate chance to make the kind of impact I was seeking to create for our country.
What would you say is one of the most powerful things you learned about yourself through your service to the military?
MP: I learned how resilient I was. My experience was different from that of someone who has served in combat–I never had that opportunity, because of my back problems. Rather, I found myself adrift after 18 months of service. My whole world got turned upside down and I didn’t have a plan.
I had been preparing myself mentally, physically, and professionally for 4 years to become a military officer. It wasn’t just my career path, it was my identity, my source of self-worth, everything. Instead of fulfilling my desire to serve as a Naval Officer, I was cut loose and had to figure out my next move pretty quickly, and carve out an unconventional path for myself.
You were significantly injured during your service, which prematurely ended your career. Can you speak to how you overcame this difficult time?
MP: I want to be clear that it was not a combat-related injury, but I was Active Duty when I had my surgeries and therefore my status with the Veterans Administration is that of Service-Disabled Veteran.
I overcame what happened to me physically by getting reacquainted with my body. Working myself to the bone, pushing my body to extremes, and achieving through athletics were ingrained in who I was. After my back surgeries, my body wasn’t capable of that anymore, so I had to really learn how to listen to what my body was telling me. It took a long time–7 years–before I got to a place where I really felt comfortable with my body again, and was able to move my body on a regular basis, without overdoing it and re-injuring myself.
I overcame the professional setback of not being able to proceed with my career as a Naval Officer by becoming resourceful. I wasn’t really prepared to find an entry-level job in the civilian workforce, because I had spent 4 years preparing to become a Naval Officer. But I made a spreadsheet and sent over 100 resumes, and I made calls to everyone I could think of asking for advice and support, until something came back.
Many veterans suffer from injuries that are not visible to others, including PTSD, anxiety, depression, and other mental ailments, especially once they leave the military. What advice do you have for anyone trying to acclimate to civilian life?
MP: It’s so ingrained in us as veterans to “be tough,” and that asking for help or seeking assistance is a sign of weakness. But it’s not–knowing your limits, being able to identify that something’s going on and that you might need support to manage it–that is a sign of extreme wisdom. Don’t isolate yourself or suffer in silence. It’s okay to ask for help.
Since your service, you have set, and accomplished, many goals on your check list. What motivates you and what advice do you have for anyone looking to make changes in their life?
MP: For me, it’s always come back to the desire to serve society. When I realized that I wouldn’t be able to do that through military service, I licked my wounds for a couple of years, but then started looking for other ways to serve. That led me to plus size modeling and body positivity advocacy. Now, everything I do is to inspire and empower women to love their bodies.
It wasn’t easy to establish myself as a model, or a voice for body positivity. There were definitely times where I started to wonder if it was really worth it, and what kept me going was my desire to help other women.
I think if your only motivation is personal and financial success, you’re going to burn out no matter what profession you’re in. But if you ground your motivation in a desire to serve others, that’s going to sustain you no matter what you encounter. Because ultimately, we’re all capable of being someone else’s hero, and a life of service draws that out in us.
What is one goal you have that you hope to achieve in the future?
MP: Recently, I’ve started doing weekly video broadcasts via Facebook Live. I’m calling it “Body Love TV.” I’d really like to grow this into a more sophisticated production and find a major media partner to help me reach more women. From what I’ve seen so far as a body positivity advocate, one of the most important things we can do is have a dialogue about what we’re experiencing with our bodies. I think it’s vitally important for Body Love TV to reach more women, so we can bring them into the conversation.
Do you have any advice as to way people can help support veterans and/or those currently serving our nation? Are there any organizations or foundations you recommend people to look into?
MP: There are such a wide variety of organizations that help support veterans in different ways, which is really fantastic. I am a big fan of Veterans Campaign, which provides encouragement, mentorship and preparation for veterans seeking to run for political office. There’s nothing better for this country, and other veterans, than having more veterans in public office!
Organizations like the Wounded Warrior Project provide support to wounded veterans as they are returning home. It also provides assistance for their families, which is vitally important. And Tech Qualled is a company that is using innovative approaches to get veterans on a technical career path after their service.
On an individual level, each of us has the ability to express gratitude, which goes a long way. That not only means thanking people for their service, but also appreciating the privileges we all enjoy as citizens of this democracy. We do that by being good citizens ourselves, and finding our own ways to serve and make the country better.
There are many organizations out there–always check Charity Navigator before donating to any charity that serves veterans to ensure that they are going to be good stewards of your donation.
You are in the process of writing a book – can you tell us more about it?
MP: Yes! I’m in the process of finding a publisher for my book. The working title is The Plus Size Models Guide to Body Love. It is truly a labor of love–it contains my story, everything I’ve learned, plus many practical applications and wisdom for women looking to transform their relationships with their bodies. I’ve poured my whole heart and soul into this thing and shared the good, the bad, and the ugly because I want women to benefit from my experience! I’m really excited to eventually share it with readers–stay tuned for updates!
Do you have a favorite quote or inspirational saying that you could share?
MP: This is a quote we had to memorize during my basic training. It’s called “The Man in the Arena”:
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt
I think it’s such a great reminder to each of us to get off the sidelines and put some skin in the game. I truly believe we’re all capable of heroism–we just need to find something worth fighting for to bring it out in us.