Melissa Rhodehouse, of Menan, has been crowned Mrs. Idaho America 2020 after seven consecutive years competing in the pageant.

Mrs. Idaho America is a program that recognizes Idaho’s married women. It is the preliminary competition to determine who will represent the Gem State at the Mrs. America Pageant. A total of 23 women competed in the Mrs. Idaho America contest Oct. 12 in Nampa, Idaho.

Melissa Rhodehouse has taken first runner up multiple times and has also taken second runner up in the competition. She said winning the pageant is a “surreal” experience.

“I’m still processing how it feels … It’s elating, and then it’s overwhelming,” she said.

Melissa Rhodehouse’s husband, Brandon Rhodehouse, said he is proud of his wife for her hard work and said the journey to her becoming Mrs. Idaho America has been long, but rewarding “to say the least.”

“It’s pretty amazing seeing your spouse — or in my case, a very beautiful woman like my wife — just want something … and never give up,” Brandon said.

Melissa will compete in the Mrs. America Pageant Aug. 22, 2020. Before then, she said, there’s much to be done.

Melissa persevered for seven years to become Mrs. Idaho America, and having earned the title, she said she plans to make the most of it. She is an advocate of Victoria’s Voice and raising awareness about the opioid epidemic, and she said she plans to speak to people in the area about the issue. She said she is currently scheduled to speak Nov. 17 at First Christian Church in Idaho Falls. She also plans to raise money to give the community access to NARCAN — a narcotic that can treat overdoses in emergency situations and save lives.

Melissa’s tie to opiate addiction is a personal one. She said about eight years ago, Brandon was in a car accident. She said doctors prescribed him opiates, and he became addicted. She said as a family, they sought help from an Idaho Falls addiction treatment center and managed to work through the issue together.

“I think addiction can tear families apart,” she said. “And for us, it brought us closer together and it made us stronger.”

Brandon said other members of his family have struggled with addiction, and he said it is an issue that is widespread. Addiction does not have to permanently change one’s life for the worse.

“We’ve personally — Melissa and I — have been through that journey,” he said. “We’ve seen the ugliness of it, and we’ve also seen the benefits of someone getting better.”

Outside of raising awareness about opiate addiction, Melissa said her goal with being Mrs. Idaho America is to help other families and women become empowered and learn to never quit. She said her greatest take-away from her pageant experience was that it’s about being “the best women we can be.”

“Really what all of these years kind of taught me was just to relax and be myself, that I didn’t have to be a perfect pageant person,” she said.

Melissa and Brandon have been married 14 years — soon to be 15 in December — and they have three children between 10 and 20 years old. Melissa said they have lived in their home in Menan for about a year and a half. Prior to that, they lived in Idaho Falls, where Melissa was born and raised. Currently, Melissa works as a Reiki Master and a lash artist, and Brandon is a branch manager at the Washington Federal bank in Idaho Falls. In her spare time, Melissa enjoys spending time with family, collecting crystals and floating the South Fork in search of fish.

Brandon said he is “so proud” of his wife and prepared to support her spreading her platform. He said people have asked him in previous years why Melissa continues to run for Mrs. Idaho America, and whether she does so because she lacks confidence. No, he said. It’s the opposite.

“She runs because she has the confidence and she wants to be a voice for other women out there,” he said.

Melissa said her “Mr.” is pretty cool, and said both he and she will be available if anyone has questions or needs a contact person. Both can be contacted at brhode2122@outlook.com, and Melissa said she can also be reached at that email for public speaking events.