Hall gaining fame
G-R grad serves as voice for Fareway ads and co-hosts 'DSM Living'
Not only is she the voice of the Fareway commercials, she's also television co-host for "DSM Living" on ABC 5, an actor, a model, and an academic advisor. However, according to Melanie Hall, the spotlight is a wonderful place to be, but truthfully, the role she loves the most is wife and mother.
Melanie Hall credits high school speech and drama coaches Merle McCrea and Diane Thelin for helping her develop an early love for acting.
Melanie Hall, of Ankeny, is well-known for her work with Fareway. Hall is spokesperson for Fareway and the voice of the weekly commercials. She also has appeared in numerous television commercials for Fareway.
Hall, whose last name is Ellison and has continued to use her maiden name for her acting work, is a 1997 graduate of Glidden-Ralston Community Schools. In high school she and her older sisters, Kim Sadegi and Katie Williams, were extremely active in speech and drama and vocal and instrumental music.
Growing up Melanie also competed in beauty pageants. However, some may be surprised to know being on stage did not come naturally for Hall.
"I was very shy because I was the youngest child and my older sisters talked for me," explained Hall. "I even worked with a speech pathologist because I hardly spoke," she said.
Hall's career began at age 10 when an agent approached Hall at a beauty pageant and asked if she'd be interested in doing print work and acting in commercials.
Hall credits her speech and drama coaches at Glidden-Ralston Community Schools, Merle McCrea and Diane Thelin, for giving her acting career a huge boost at the very start. Not only did they give her sound acting advice, but they helped Hall discover her love for acting. She also credits her vocal instructor, Jason Clark, and her instrumental music instructor, Dean Lamp, for giving her plenty of stage and performance experience.
As a member of the small Glidden-Ralston speech team, Hall had lots of opportunities to compete at the district and state levels, sometimes in speech ensembles with her sisters.
Hall and her sisters competed in large-group and individual speech contests and won All-State recognition numerous times.
She was also greatly inspired by Yvonne Fielder, who at the time was a teacher and speech and drama coach at Carroll Community Schools who resided in Glidden. Hall recalls she and her sisters working with Fielder during late-night practices after Fielder returned from evening speech practices at Carroll High School. Hall said, "Yvonne was a big inspiration to us. She helped us out of the kindness of her heart."
When Hall was in high school, she didn't have a specific career goal in mind, but she knew she liked music, performing and theater.
"I knew that would have to be part of my life somehow," she said.
After high school, Hall attended Simpson College and earned her bachelor's degree in theater and English.
Hall considers her theater instructors at Simpson College, Tom and Ann Woldt and Jennifer Nostrala to be some of her biggest mentors. To this day, Hall still meets from time to time with Woldt to bounce ideas off of him.
Shortly after graduating from college, Hall moved to Chicago to work as an actor in commercials and independent films. While in Chicago she met her husband, Mark, now an Edward Jones financial adviser. Both graduated from Simpson College, but they didn't meet until they were living in Chicago.
The couple lived and worked in Chicago for a few years and then decided in 2003 they wanted to return to Iowa. Although Hall and Ellison liked living in Chicago and loved big-city life, Hall said, "Iowa is ultimately where we wanted to raise a family."
After returning to Iowa, Hall earned her master's degree in rhetoric, composition and professional communication at Iowa State University. She hosted high school academic competitions for Mediacom while continuing her acting career.
In late 2009, Hall was expecting her second child and the opportunity arose for her to audition for spokesperson for Fareway. At first Hall was nervous about telling Fareway about the pregnancy, but after several rounds of auditions, it all worked out in her favor.
As it turns out, Fareway didn't mind Hall's pregnancy at all.
"I had a wonderful pregnancy, and Fareway is all about family," she said.
Hall loves working for Fareway.
"It's a hometown grocery story, and I get to see it run from the inside out," she said. "I get to see the people and show viewers this is where I spend my money."
Three years later, Hall is still excited about the opportunity to work for Fareway. She is the voice of their weekly commercial and has appeared in numerous commercials. Sometimes Hall appears alone, but in earlier commercials Hall appeared with a husband and children. However, Hall reveals the on-screen family was not hers.
The in-store commercials are filmed at various stores around Iowa such as Clive or Winterset with real Fareway employees. Hall said it's amazing to see what the employees do to make the stores look their very best.
Hall is fortunate that she can record the weekly voice-overs in her home office in between her others jobs as co-host on "DSM Living" and her job at Des Moines Area Community College in Ankeny as an academic adviser. This allows her to make last-minute edits, such as price changes, without having to go to a studio.
Since this March, Hall has been busy filming segments for "DSM Living" one to two days a week. The show airs on ABC Channel 5 at 11a.m. Sundays. "DSM Living" will celebrate one year on air in January.
Hall is extremely enthusiastic about her new job as co-host.
She said, "'DSM Living' has given me a lot of really great opportunities, you meet a lot of people. I love showcasing the Des Moines area so it's a very simple job. It's definitely something I love to do."
The "DSM Living" segments typically feature businesses or organizations in the Des Moines area. Other segments include restaurants, bands or festivals.
Recently Hall visited Christopher's Fine Jewelry in Des Moines to learn how to select a diamond and taste testing "DSM Living's" Wine of the Month at Summerset Winery in Indianola.
"I get to spotlights the gems of Des Moines. It's such a compliment to be asked to showcase where I live," Hall said.
Hall's other work includes commercial work for Meredith Corp. As a model she recently filmed a cooking segment in their test kitchen.
Her work in the test kitchen showcases about anything from how to slice a sweet potato to simple cooking techniques. Segments such as these are posted to their publication websites such as Better Homes and Gardens. Hall's work also includes filming training videos for corporations.
Hall's typical day is very exciting, there is always something new for Hall to learn and experience.
On some days Hall may be busy with four separate shoots between Fareway, "DSM Living" and her work as an actor and model. One day Hall might be doing a voice-over for a fireplace superstore, and the next day she is filming a commercial for a car dealership.
Additionally, Hall enjoys her work as an actor. In 2009 she filmed a movie, "Sam Steele and the Junior Detective Agency," with Hollywood actor, Luke Perry. Parts of the movie were filmed in the Des Moines area including a home in West Des Moines. Hall's part as coffee shop hostess was filmed downtown at Amici Espresso.
Hall and her husband, Mark, and their children, daughter, Marlee, 4, and son, Hank, 2, are very active. They enjoy the outdoors and can be found playing basketball or baseball or riding bikes as a family.
Hall's children appeared in one "DSM Living" segment, but she isn't pushing either one to pursue a career in acting.
Hall said, "If they express an interest, we will do it at that time. My parents did the same for me."
Hall's children love seeing her and hearing her voice on TV. Hall said doesn't mind at all, it's a chance for them to see their mom doing something she loves.
There are so many things Melanie and her family love about living in Iowa. Hall said she feels frustrated when she hears people complain about nothing to do in Iowa. Hall says this couldn't be farther from the truth.
"Iowa has so much to do with art, music and sporting events, especially for families," she said. "Des Moines is able to provide a taste of the big city, with a small heart."
When asked if she had any advice for someone wishing to pursue an acting career, Hall said, "Working hard is really important, and following your heart is just as important. You may not get every role. Keep a small slice of what you love, you can grow and change that piece to a new opportunity. Don't get disheartened. Don't give up, and be persistent. When I lived in Chicago, I was knocking on doors."
Hall also advises those interested in acting to remember, "It's great to say yes to new challenges, and if it doesn't work out, it's OK."
Hall says there are tons of acting opportunities in Iowa such as educational institutions, grocery stores and even the lottery.
Hall enjoys seeing what she can do with each new opportunity. She challenges herself to keep growing and honing her skills. Every time she is working, she is practicing a new technique or perfecting a skill. This is especially true each time she works with a new director or production company. As an actor, her work is always changing and so is she.
Hall is also her best critic and she always takes time to watch herself on TV to figure out what she likes and what she'd like to change or improve upon. Hall said the key to being a good actor is working hard, but making it look easy. As a spokesperson and co-host, Hall said her ultimate goal is to be relatable and fun on TV.
She also makes sure to read a book to Marlee and Hank every night. It's a time for her to practice her skills and use different voices, but most of all, it's one of her most favorite things to do.