Turlock native Ally Mello had a deal with her parents.
Get her college education first and then she could pursue whatever dream she wanted. And if that dream took her to four continents and spanned 35,000 miles while racing for a $1million prize, so be it.
The 23-year-old Pitman High graduate will be a contestant on the globe-trotting reality hit, The Amazing Race, which premieres Sunday on CBS.
Mello moved to Southern California for college after graduating from Pitman in 2008. She graduated with honors from California State University, Long Beach, in 2012 with a degree in communications studies and is currently is a member of the L.A. Kings Ice Crew.
Her parents, who still live in Turlock, had known about her big dreams since she was little.
When it comes to my parents, they know Im going to do what I am going to do, said Mello, who is now back from filming. When I moved down to Southern California from Turlock, I had to support myself. I worked as much as I had to work to pay my bills. So after I finished my education, the deal was I could pursue entertainment as much as I wanted.
Mello was bitten by the acting bug at age 6 when she first took the stage for a play at Brown Elementary School in Turlock.
We did This Little Pig. I was the first little pig. I fell in love with acting and thought it was the coolest role ever, Mello said.
From there, she did summer theater productions at CSU Stanislaus and Denair Gaslight Theater. She was active all four years in her high school drama program, taking parts in several productions. She was also on the volleyball, track and soccer teams while at Pitman.
Since moving to Southern California three years ago, Mello has done commercials for Nintendos Wii Fit and landed roles in shows like the now-canceled Vegas with Dennis Quaid and Legit on FX.
Her mix of acting and athleticism helped her earn a spot on the L.A. Kings Ice Crew last year. Each National Hockey League team has an ice crew that helps to clean the ice during TV timeouts and pump up the crowd. Crew members also make more than 400 promotional and charity appearances for the team each year.
She and fellow L.A. Kings Ice Crew teammate Ashley Covert, 25, are teamed together for The Amazing Race.
It was her association with the Ice Crew that landed Mello an audition for the show. Amazing Race executive producer Jerry Bruckheimer is a hockey fan and asked everyone on the team to submit résumés for the show in the early spring.
Mello and Covert met while at CSU Long Beach, and are friends on the Ice Crew, so they teamed together for auditions. She said their complementary chemistry makes them a winning combination.
Im a people pleaser. I dont like to be mad at people, Mello said. Ashley is a little spunky, shes the spitfire. I knew shed have my back the whole way through. Were both athletic and intelligent and really good at communicating. And were pretty funny, Im not going to lie.
Mello was a fan of The Amazing Race before becoming a contestant and used to watch regularly with her parents when she was younger. In fact, she said, its the only reality show she would consider being on because its about the adventure instead of the drama.
Filming on the season began earlier in the summer and lasted 25 days. The cast and crew are sworn to secrecy about the outcome. According to CBS, the teams missions will have them paragliding the skies above Chile, plunging into bone-chilling water in Norway and buckling up for Formula One racing in Abu Dhabi.
Before she left, Mello said she wasnt nervous about any of the athletic aspects of the show. But she was nervous about some of the more basic travel requirements.
Not too much scares me, to be honest. Which I think makes my parents worried, she said. So I wasnt too nervous going into the race. But I think my biggest fear was a lack of traveling experience between Ashley and I. We had both been focused on getting through college and both played high school sports. So we hadnt had the chance to travel much. My biggest worry was wed never done it and didnt know even how to go through customs.
Being apart and unable to communicate with her family was another obstacle. Mellos mother works for the Empire Union School District and her father for the Department of Water Resources. She has an older sister who lives near her in El Segundo and works as a registered nurse.
My mom was pretty nervous, and not being able to talk to her so long was pretty difficult, Mello said. But I was looking forward to seeing different places, different countries, different cultures and being immersed in it all.