After having her heart broken on national television and landing in third place during her first stint on one of TV's most popular reality shows, Melissa Rycroft bounced back in a big way when she was declared the winner of ABC's hit reality competition series "Dancing with the Stars" (2005- ). The former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader became a household name when she competed in season 13 of the reality series "The Bachelor" (ABC, 2002- ), where she seemingly won the heart of the show's bachelor, Jason Mesnick. But her fairytale romance with Mesnick came to a sudden halt when he had a change of heart and broke off their engagement in front of millions of viewers. Rycroft's much publicized breakup, however, was not the end of her television career; she went on to appear on "Entertainment Tonight" (CBS, 1981- ) and "The Bachelor" spin-off series "Bachelor Pad" (ABC, 2010- ). Yet, it was Rycroft's return to the popular series "Dancing with the Stars: All Stars" in 2012 that showcased not only her graceful dance moves, but also proved that she had the potential to have a lasting career in show business.
Born on March 11, 1983 in Dallas, TX, Melissa Rycroft was a drill team officer at Newman Smith High School in Carrolton, where she graduated from in 2001. Rycroft attended The University of Oklahoma during her freshman year before returning to her hometown to earn a degree in marketing and finance from the University of North Texas in 2005. Rycroft had her first taste of fame on the reality TV series "Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders: Making the Team" (CMT, 2006- ), where she was selected as one of 35 Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders for the 2006 NFL season. She remained on the squad through the 2007 season. In 2009, Rycroft tried her luck again on television; this time, competing not for a job, but for a shot at love. On the 13th season of "The Bachelor," Rycroft and a bevy of female contestants tried to win the heart of the show's bachelor, single father Jason Mesnick. Rycroft made it all the way to the show's final rose ceremony, wherein Mesnick proposed and selected her over runner-up Molly Malaney. But following the finale, during the "After the Final Rose" episode (taped six weeks after the much-hyped engagement), Resnick broke up with Rycroft on national television and revealed that he wanted to be with Malaney instead. What ensued was an hour-long drama-fest that featured Rycroft returning her engagement ring and leaving in a huff of tears, making her an instant object of national sympathy and Mesnick a focus of derision.
Rycroft was not heartbroken for long. In December 2009, she married Ty Strickland, whom she had dated on-and-off for years back in Texas. Having endeared herself to the public after bouncing back from public humiliation, she went on to have a thriving television career, which included being a correspondent on "Entertainment Tonight" and hosting the spin-off "Bachelor Pad" (ABC, 2010- ). For her next mainstream project, Rycroft again turned to reality TV again, proving that she had the right moves as one of the most successful contestants on the hit reality competition show "Dancing with the Stars." She competed for the first time in 2009, replacing Nancy O'Dell after she had suffered an injury, and ended up in third place. In 2012, Rycroft, along with her previous dancing partner Tony Dovolani, returned to "Dancing with the Stars: All Stars," which featured previous contestants from the show. Rycroft and Dovolani ended up taking home the coveted mirror ball trophy during the show's finale, beating out fellow finalists and former champs Kelly Monaco and Shawn Johnson.
By Candy Cuenco