Aspiring spokes-model shares philanthropic goals

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If experience equals wisdom, Michelle Marie is wise beyond her years.

Her late teens and early 20s were a roller coaster ride marked by a bold, cross-country move away from her parents that “failed miserably,” a runway modeling career for Redken Fifth Avenue that ended in substance abuse, bulimia and a suicide attempt, and a rock-bottom moment in which she faced eviction, car repossession and life without a cell phone.

As she stands today, at the age of 27, one wouldn’t be able to pick up on the troubles that plagued her past. Marie appears easygoing, put-together, confident and full of life. And that’s largely because she has come out on the other side with a renewed attitude and a list of ambitions.

Having just moved to Parker five months ago with her boyfriend and dog, Marie found herself, again, in a strange place with no money and no nearby friends or family. But this time it was different. The move from Lake Geneva, Wis., was meant as a fresh start, and so far, so good.

Since February, Marie has landed a slew of sponsors, been crowned Ms. Colorado State, created a women’s networking group called FemCity Denver, and started a career as a public speaker. That was after a brief stint working for a roofing company. It’s difficult to tell which direction she wants to go, but Marie sets the record straight when asked about her ultimate goal.

“I would love to brand myself to get in line with an international nonprofit and be the image associated with that nonprofit,” she says.

And that brand-development campaign has already begun. By putting her face and name out in Denver, Marie hopes to regain the minor celebrity status she enjoyed in Lake Geneva, where she resurrected her career as a runway model and dabbled in numerous charitable efforts over the last five years.

Her dream to become a philanthropic international spokesmodel might come across as lofty, but with Marie, it doesn’t seem out of reach at all. She has degrees in marketing and is getting in some good practice by plugging her sponsors during Ms. Colorado State appearances. She has taken her message of hope and self-worth to high school students. Marie has also spoken to elementary school kids, instilling in them the belief that “the smallest hands can make the largest impact.”

“I discovered I could make a difference with my voice,” says Marie, who cites Eva Peron and Angelina Jolie as her idols.

Although she is pulled in many directions — her next gig is a YouTube series that will have her interviewing Douglas County business owners — Marie says she does not want to look back on her life knowing that she didn’t strive to meet her own expectations.

“When I have a daughter one day, I want to tell her I went for it and struggled through it,” she said.