As a child, Melanie Moore told her mother she wanted to be famous. Through sheer talent, enthusiasm and drive, the 19-year-old Marietta resident was able to accomplish this and more when she won the title of “America’s Favorite Dancer” in the Fox show “So You Think You Can Dance.”

After touching down in Marietta over the weekend, the new star opened up about her experience, the future, Lady Gaga, and why she might change her major.

Last Thursday, thousands turned out to watch as the 2010 Lassiter High School graduate was announced as the winner of the Emmy-nominated show. In addition to the title, Moore won $250,000, a cover of Dance Fit magazine and is the newest face of Gatorade’s G-Fit campaign.

So is she still pinching herself? “Yes,” she gushed. “I still can’t believe it’s happening. It’s so surreal.”

Moore’s mother, Vickie, said watching her youngest daughter live out her dreams is “the most incredible experience any parent can imagine. We have always enjoyed watching Melanie dance, obviously, but for her to get the type of recognition and positive feedback and the wonderful comments that she was getting from people has just been beyond our wildest expectations and hopes.”

Melanie’s grandmother, Margaret Mullins, said her fond memories include Melanie’s 1-on-1 performances as a little girl.

“She would take me to her playroom and tell me to sit down and she performed for me,” Margaret recalls. “When she was through, she would say, ‘Now you can clap.’ We spent time together with her performing for me — only me.”

Melanie began dancing at age 4, studying at Center Stage School of Dance and Rhythm Dance Center.

“When dancing got really serious for me, I knew that was something I wanted to put my heart and soul into,” she said.

Vickie said she was unaware of Melanie’s desire to audition for the show until she called earlier this year, urgently needing a flight home from New York, where she attends Fordham University, to make the Atlanta auditions. Both Vickie and Margaret were in Los Angeles for the duration of Melanie’s time in the Top 20.

Throughout the competition, Moore said she was aware of the talk that she was the front-runner and tried not to let it affect her.

“I already put enough pressure on myself. I didn’t need other stressors,” she said.

While Melanie sweated it out on stage, Vickie sweated it out waiting on the judges’ critiques, something she said was the hardest part of watching her daughter compete. The proud mother said she thought the judges’ reaction to Melanie’s disco performance with Marko Germar for Wednesday’s finale show had a hint of negativity, but her other performances were praised.

Melanie said getting to work with different choreographers each week was the ultimate highlight of the show.

“I really learned so much. They all pushed me so much in so many different ways,” she said. “I feel like now I’m so much more inspired than I was and so much more motivated to get going.”

Meeting Lady Gaga was also a high point. The singer was a guest judge on the July 27 episode and, in a memorable moment, ceremoniously threw her shoes at both Melanie and first-runner up Sasha Mallory after their “Game On” performance. Melanie also laughed as she recalled how meeting Suri Cruise – the daughter of Tom Cruise and guest judge Katie Holmes – made her most nervous.

When Melanie first spoke to the Journal in July, she said the atmosphere of the show was more friendly and supportive than competitive. She said this helpful spirit continued even as she found herself in the Top 4 with Sasha, Marko and Tadd Gadduang.

“I don’t think any of us were competitive with each other, because we all had to do dances together and we were so close already,” she said. “We were all so tired, and we had to get through it together. Without each other, we definitely would not have been able to get through those finale episodes.”

She said the week of the finale was hectic, as they had rehearsals from 7 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. As tired as they were, she said the dancers wanted to keep pushing. But doctors said otherwise, insisting they were “clinically exhausted” and rest was mandatory.

“We got back to our apartments and we went over it anyway!” she said.

It wasn’t until 11 p.m. the night before the finale that the dancers were told which routines they would perform again the next day. Melanie said they relied on YouTube to remember the moves.

Melanie said as the top four dancers were cut to two, she felt overwhelmed with emotions. Backstage, as she and Sasha prepared for the last performance, they were both in tears – but joyful.

“I love her. We are really, really close,” Melanie said. “She is so inspiring. I absolutely love watching her dance.”

After the results were announced, Melanie said everything was a blur: Confetti, tears, cheers, pictures and interviews.

“It was such a positive thing. I don’t know if I accepted that because I know people are upset that they didn’t get to that point,” she said. “Even Sasha was so sweet about it, and I know she definitely wanted to win too. I knew that it was hard but she was so positive and so genuine.”

So what does the future hold? For one, a possible change in Melanie’s major. The art student said she has been thinking about focusing on her passion, dance.

“I know that a lot of people move on from dancing to choreographing,” she said. “I feel I would never place myself in that realm of choreography if I hadn’t studied in it. It would definitely be something I would love to do, so I think that going to school for that and studying it would be amazing. Just being on the show shows me that I have so much left to learn.”

In addition to her dancing skills, Melanie was often lauded for her acting ability, and show director Kenny Ortega hinted at working with her in the future. So has she considered it?

“I definitely would be a lot better at remembering choreography than I would lines. I would really have to study up,” she said. “It would definitely be a big journey to embark on, but who knows?”

The top 10 dancers from the show will kick off a national tour in Miami on Sept. 17, which is also Melanie’s 20th birthday. Performances will consist of new routines and as well as favorites throughout the season. The dancers will visit 32 cities, making a stop in Georgia on Sept. 20 at 7 p.m. at the Arena at Gwinnett Center. Tickets go on sale Aug. 29 at 10 a.m.

After the tour, she plans on auditioning in Los Angeles and New York City. Both mother and grandmother said they look forward to what the future holds for Melanie, including seeing her fulfill her dreams of Broadway and beyond.

“I just want her to stay healthy. No injuries,” said Margaret, Melanie’s grandmother.

“She has worked hard to get to the point where she is today," Vickie said. "I’m just hopeful that whatever opportunities come along that she’s able to fulfill that dream to dance for her life’s enjoyment and make a living with dance."

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