This week I am highlighting a women I met in 1995 through pageantry. In 1996 I was fortunate to watch her become our second woman of color and 50th Miss NH crowned. There so somethng so special about watching someone whom you look up to, change the world. Michelle is someone you meet and she immediately steels your heart. She is a pure and genuine soul. I am forever grateful for social media as I have been able to keep up with the amazing things she has accomplished. This past year Michelle and I have become closer as we share an unspoken bond. Part of the Fabulously Fighting community, Michelle fights Multiple Sclerosis. This diagnosis could have derailed her life, her plans, and her zest. But Michelle took it head on and fights fabulously everyday.
It speaks volumes for two friends who can pick up where they left off so many years ago and forge a stronger bond within weeks of reconnecting. Michelle has a smile that lights up any room and always makes you feel welcome in her presence. I asked Michelle for her bio so I could share how amazing this woman really is. She is unaware how or why I was asking, but I hope this puts a smile of her face and joy in heart, as she does for anyone she meets. Please help me in appreciating a woman who has not only changed my life but the lives of so many.
Michelle Tolson has been dancing since the age of 10 and choreographing since the age of 15. Her students hold many regional and national titles in both dance competitions and pageants including Regional Dancer of the Year for American Dance Awards, World Talent Winner for International Sunshine Girl, and World Showstopper. Former students have gone on to appear in regional and national tours, So You Think You Can Dance and on Broadway in Memphis, Chaplin, Mama Mia, West Side Story, Pippin, Rock of Ages, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory and Pretty Woman.
Michelle received the Young Choreographer of the Year Award from American Dance Awards in 1998. She is also a pageant coach and choreographer, and has had many students compete in the Miss New Hampshire Program for Miss America as well as the Miss New York and Miss Massachusetts Program in where her students have consistently made the top ten. She also judged the Miss New York program in 2014, helping to choose Kira Kazantsev, who went on to become Miss America. She was the Judges Chair for the Miss New York Program from 2015 – 2017.
Michelle also held the title of Miss New Hampshire 1996 and competed at the Miss America Pageant that fall. Her picture and shoe can be seen in the Miss America Hall of Fame in Atlantic City. She was the choreographer and producer for the New Hampshire’s Distinguished Young Woman Program for seven years, a scholarship program for senior’s in high school and is a former Junior Miss for New Hampshire. She continues to volunteer for this program in NH as well as NJ.
Her performance credits include being a Radio City Rockette for six years, where she performed in The Radio City Christmas Spectacular as well as on the Today Show, the Isaac Mizrahi Show, and in the Macy’s Day Parade. She also performed in Tap Girls, 42nd Street and numerous television, video and print works.
For five years she was a Professor at Wagner College on Staten Island, NY, where she choreographed Cabaret for the main stage and implemented the Tap program. She has been a guest artist at Georgian Court University where she worked with the dance club and was the dance advisor/coach for the Neptune High School dance team and the choreographer for the musicals. Her dance team was chosen out of 90 teams in the NY/NJ/CT area to compete on the new MSG Varsity Talent Show. While at Neptune she choreographed A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum and Guys and Dolls. She was also the dance team coach and choreographer at Immaculate Conception High School and brought her team to three state championships wins. She continues to teach at dance studios throughout New York and New Jersey, and works as a Master Teacher throughout the country.
Michelle is the Performing Arts Director at Camp Vega in Kents Hill, Maine, considered the number one all girls’ camp in the country. Michelle also tours the country as a master teacher, adjudicator and director for various dance competitions. She was a director for Dancers Inc. for five years and now works as a judge for three competitions throughout the country. She has been judging for close to twenty years and enjoys teaching new talent every weekend.
Michelle was the Director of Public Relations at the New York City Rescue Mission, the first homeless shelter in the country. Michelle brought local and national media attention to the issues of homelessness and generates support through fundraisers and special events to help those in need in the New York City area. She recently left her job as the Director of Communications for the American Heart Association in NYC and is now the Marketing and Logistics Director of Camp Vega.