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Melissa Jenkins Mangili: Neuropsychologist reinvented as a model

Updated: Sep 20, 2022

Melissa Mangilli on the Finding Fertile Ground podcast

Dr. Melissa Jenkins Mangili is a neuropsychologist and medical school faculty member who has reinvented herself as a fashion and fitness model.

Melissa Jenkins Mangili as a little girl, opening a birthday present
Melissa as a small child

Her life began with grit and resilience. She and her three siblings were raised in poverty in rural Maine by a single quadriplegic mother.

“The nice thing about being from a small town is that everybody knows each other…and rallied to help us. (My mother) couldn't drive at first. She had to relearn how to drive and get an adapted car. Eventually we were able to build a wheelchair-accessible home…and she was able to drive independently…as we got older, we were able to help more.”

Melissa had her first job at age 9, with a paper route. By age 12 she was working 50 hours a week babysitting during the summer. She worked at McDonald’s in high school and as a second job during college summers.

In spite of the hardships, she had a happy childhood.

“…the experience made us closer and happier in a lot of ways, because even though things were tough, we were in it together. We all had a common mission of taking care of our mom and taking care of each other and doing everything that we could to contribute to that common mission…we became very close and we learned how to be very self-sufficient. We're all very successful as adults.”

Thanks to her intelligence and hard work, she graduated second in her college class. That’s just the start of her educational journey. She camped across the country to California for graduate school because she heard education was more financially accessible there. Then she worked her way through UCSD.

Melissa Mangili, fashion model
Photo by Andy Powers

Fast forward to her academic career and private practice as a neuropsychologist. Until recently, Melissa taught at Brown University medical school. During the “great pause” of COVID, she took a sharp left turn and become a fashion and fitness model.

“I think it is radical to step in front of a camera and do it as yourself, not with artificial enhancements or extreme workout regimens or any of that kind of perfectionism, but just to step in front of the camera or out on a runway and model, as a not-25-year-old model and be visible and represent our generation.”

Melissa Mangili as a fashion model
Photo by Andy Powers

She loves advocating for more diverse representation in modeling.

Melissa is also enjoying the freedom from not having to fit into the conservative norms of academia. She’s embracing her reinvention as a model!

Melissa is currently featured in Model Billboard magazine and has been on the runway in Rhode Island, New England, and New York fashion weeks. To see her portfolio or hire her for modeling, check out her Instagram page.

Please drop me a line at or on social media to let us know what you thought about this episode.

I help professional services firms avoid BORING and boost employee engagement, productivity, and readership. I translate technical, complex, and lackluster language into accessible, dynamic, story-driven text. Get known in your industry through outstanding thought leadership content. Walk your talk through outstanding, effective communications with your employees and clients.

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