The 2005 winner of Miss Wisconsin, Melissa Ann Young, may have one of the most tragic yet most inspiring stories of any beauty contestant in recent memory. Her life has seen great highs of achievement, yet desperate blows from health problems, but all through the ups and downs, Young has kept a beautiful disposition that makes her an example for us all. And she says Donald Trump saved her life just weh she needed him most.
Firstly, Wisconsin has been one of the least successful states in the Miss USA contest. With only seven placements in the last 60 years, Melissa Young is one of those few top placements. She is one of only three Miss Wisconsin’s to take home an award having won the “Miss Congeniality Award” in 2005, but she also came to the contest via a path few pageant winners tread.
Young says that most women who pursue beauty titles come from families of relative privilege and that these women often train their whole young lives for the stage. But she entered only with dreams of competing with the country’s most beautiful and talented women. She had no training, no life of privilege, and no support system for pageantry.
In an interview with this reporter, Young said, “They start training at a really young age. They are preparing their whole life. That was not my story. At one point, my family was living in a tent and washing up in public restrooms.”
But Young says she was fascinated by the Miss USA contest when she was a child. Since she came from a very poor upbringing, often homeless, she never saw the pageant. But she vividly remembers stumbling across the televised pageant when she was at a friend’s house one day.
“What I saw on the TV was something so foreign to me,” she said. “I was in third grade, and while my friends were playing, I sat transfixed in front of their TV set for two hours watching the Miss USA Pageant.”
“I had never seen women like that. So beautiful in their gowns. That was just not something I grew up with,” Young told me.
After that viewing, she wrote an essay for her grade school about how she hoped one day to stand on that stage with the other beautiful women. But she says she was mocked and laughed at for her ideas.
“It was at that time that I naively decided I would go for it and someday stand on that stage,” she said.
Still, despite that mocking, she did, indeed, enter her state contest and win it despite her desperately poor background.
Yet, there she stood, winning the Dairy State’s contest and knowing she was headed to that stage in the Miss USA contest with businessman Donald Trump presiding. There she stood, against all odds, it was a dream come true.
“They say that parents have a higher probability of having a son play in the NFL or in the Super Bowl than having a daughter who will compete on the stage in the Miss USA,” Young said. “It’s only 50 women, that’s it,” she added before saying, “I was going to be in the presence of those women that I always admired.”
“That year in 2005, April 11, it aired live from Baltimore, Maryland, in 75 counties with 250 million viewers,” she added. “And that night it was the first time in pageant history that Miss Wisconsin made history for winning the Miss Congeniality award. It was also the first time that every state unanimously voted for the same person to win that award.”
That was the night that she first met Donald Trump, who owned the pageant at the time. “It’s nice to meet you, Miss Congeniality,” she said Trump told her, “how did you get them to do it?”
But then life turned darker for Young. She contracted a serious illness that doctors made worse by not understanding. She almost died waiting for her condition to be understood and properly diagnosed.
She contracted what is called HELLP Syndrome. It is a syndrome that can affect pregnant women. HELLP syndrome is still little understood. It is thought to be a variant of preeclampsia, but it may also be an entity all on its own.
Young’s Autonomic failure concerns the part of the brain that controls heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, respiration, digestion, and it has caused most of her vital organs stops functioning properly.
But through it all, Young insists that she thanks God for her blessings.
“I chose forgiveness,” she said of the doctor who missed her diagnosis until it was far too late to reverse the damage. “It was the only thing I could do. I mean, the good Lord has forgiven me for all the things I’ve done in my life, and I thought, who am I to hold a grudge? When you choose forgiveness, it is in all ways. So, that’s what I’ve done.”
After becoming a case study at the Mayo Clinic on her condition, Young eventually ended up on the verge of death and being neglected in the same hospital that dallied too long to diagnose her condition in the first place.
In 2014, Young was on the verge of death, even having been given last rites, but quietly, and wholly without fanfare, Donald Trump re-entered her life with kind words that she desperately needed. Indeed, Young says that Trump’s act of reaching out to her was just the encouragement she needed to renew her fight to stay alive.
But as she was on the downswing and expected to die, Young said a “big beautiful letter” suddenly appeared. It was from Donald Trump.
“A big beautiful letter came from a Donald Trump, New York City address. And my husband opened the envelope, and I could see his big signature in gold ink,” Young told me. “I had not seen Mr. Trump in nine years since that moment on stage. But here was a letter that said, ‘from the office of Donald Trump.’ And it read: ‘To one of the bravest women I know. Get better. Keep fighting. Best wishes, Donald J. Trump.'”
“It was then that I knew I needed to keep going,” she continued. “I don’t know how Trump knew, I don’t know what put it on his heart, but that moment saved me in all the ways you could save somebody. Because while everyone else was saying goodbye to me, there was the man who I had looked up to all my life. There was the man who personified success. And nine years later, here was this letter that came on the same day I had been given my last rites.”
“But his message was like rocket fuel to me. I was on my last legs, but his letter helped me rise up with determination to live,” she said.
Finally, another doctor came in and commandeered her case to try and bring her back from the brink. And after several years, her health condition did improve at last to the degree that she could get up and around.
All this time, as so many launched attack after attack on the president, Young noted that Donald Trump could have used her story to help shore his public face. After all, she is a former beauty queen to whom he reached out. And her dire situation even has a component that Trump needs; her husband is Mexican, and her son is of Mexican background. Yet Trump never tried to exploit her like that.
“I know in my heart in those moments when he is being attacked as a racist that he could use me. He could say that he was there for me and my little boy,” Young said passionately. “Trump could say my boy is an American, but also a Mexican American. He could have used my family, but he hasn’t to protect my privacy. That’s the Mr. Trump that I know.”
Finally, this year, Young decided to attend one of Trump’s presidential rallies in Wisconsin. There, in Janesville, Wisconsin, she was fortunate enough to reconnect with our 45th president and thank him personally for his support for her when she was at her lowest.
Young was pleased to be ushered to the stage where the president said he remembered her and hugged her onstage. It was a moment that went viral with over a million views online.
“I didn’t know his thank you was so needed at the time, but it was. It was also a lesson needed for my little boy,” she told me. “The lesson for him is that if someone blesses your life, if they are there for you, if they touch your life, that we must at all costs show gratitude and you need to pay it forward.”
“I promised that until my last breath, I would speak out about who Trump is. He is the most wonderful man I ever met,” Young insisted. “And I’m going to keep that promise. People need to see the human side of him. He is so beautiful, and I will keep telling this story.”
Sadly, Young will never be fully healed from her sickness and will certainly leave us all too soon. But she wants to leave this earth on her own terms. She also wants to leave a powerful and positive legacy for her young son to hold dear for the rest of his life.
Melissa Young has exactly the sort of sublime outlook on this life of ours that we all should strive to achieve. Yes, sometimes we are handed some bad things to deal with. But life is what we make it, and we have an obligation to bring happiness and inspiration to those around us.
Young keenly understands this mandate. And she fulfills it wonderfully. Hers is a story we should all hear and an outlook we must all adopt.
Young has written a wonderful book about her experiences that is well worth the read. “Something Beautiful is Going to Happen, My Incredible Story of Fierce Devotion Embracing God, a Son, and Life Itself,” can be bought at Amazon.com.
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