Something to Smile About
New cosmetics model smiles for a mission
Alexis Harris isn’t just another pretty face. She’s the new easy, breezy face of CoverGirl–and she’s ready to share the limelight with superstars Sofía Vergara, Queen Latifah and Pink, whose long lashes and shimmering lips shine in magazine and TV ads all over the world.
Harris was handpicked from among 20,000 contestants who submitted essays and videos to The Ellen DeGeneres Show, explaining why they should be the new CoverGirl. The popular host announced a nationwide search in January.
Now the best is yet to come.
Harris, a 19-year-old senior anthropology major, will be fussed over by stylists and hair and make-up artists as she and her idol, DeGeneres, work together in a CoverGirl photo shoot that will appear in an upcoming issue of People magazine.
“I still keep pinching myself to make sure this isn’t a dream,” Harris said.
Since being named a CoverGirl in March, Harris’ life has been a rollercoaster. In April, she traveled to Las Vegas to work the red carpet as a correspondent for The Ellen DeGeneres Show at the 48th Annual Academy of Country Music Awards. She interviewed some of country music’s hottest stars, including Shania Twain, Tim McGraw and Lady Antebellum.
Was she nervous?
“No, not all,” Harris said. “I just didn’t want to embarrass myself.”
She was also a correspondent for CoverGirl at the BET Awards in Los Angeles in late June. Just a few weeks earlier, Harris wrapped her first eight-hour CoverGirl photo shoot at that city’s famed Milk Studios, where the make-up brand photographs all of its famous faces.
“It was awesome. They did my hair, make-up and nails, and I got to try on all these fabulous clothes,” the young model recalled of the back-to-school themed photo shoot. “They let me keep the shoes, the letterman’s jacket that I wore and the bright orange Capri pants and pink top.”
Harris’ once-in-a-lifetime inclusion into the CoverGirl club started after she submitted her online application in January.
“I waited for a long time and never heard back,” she said. “In March, one of the producers called and said they had tickets for me to go see Ellen because they knew I was such a huge fan. I had written about a million times to get tickets and nothing ever happened.”
Harris took her mother and 9-year-old brother to the taping. Once they arrived, a producer told her that they had made a mistake and had only one ticket, but not to worry because her mom and brother would get to sit backstage instead and would be well taken care of.
During the show, DeGeneres told the audience that she had a special announcement to make, saying she had finally selected the next CoverGirl, and that she was going to introduce the winner to the audience.
“She said, ‘But first I’m going to bring her family onstage.’ Then my mother, brother, grandmother and sister-in-law walked out,” Harris said. “I started crying my eyes out. She showed my submission tape to the audience, and then called me down to the stage.”
During a mock press conference, Harris stood next to DeGeneres, herself a CoverGirl brand ambassador, and fielded a few playful questions from make-believe members of the press. Finally, DeGeneres presented the new CoverGirl with a $20,000 check.
Harris has already put much of that money to good use. She used it to support her nonprofit SMIILE (Students Making Impact In Lives Everywhere), which she founded in June 2012 in her hometown of Killeen, Texas. The organization collected food to distribute to people in soup kitchens and assisted area families with collection drives for clothes and school supplies.
“It’s about giving back to your community and doing good things in the world wherever you can,” she said.
Harris, who expects to graduate in May 2014, plans to earn a master’s degree and then a Ph.D. in public policy. She credits her mother, Keesha, for her drive and ambition.
“She has been a big part of my support system,” Harris said. “She’s someone I’ve looked up to growing up. I admire the way she has balanced her life, work and family.”
Her mother, a program manager with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Central Texas, said she is happy for her daughter’s recent success.
“I am extremely grateful and appreciative simply because Alexis allows me to share this moment with her,” she said. “She is the positive influence young people need.”
So what was it like for Harris to finally meet her idol?
“It was a dream come true. I was just happy to be in the audience,” Harris said. “She has these big, blue eyes, and she’s so down-to-earth.”