Linda Elliott, who recently got a makeover on the reality TV show Carson Nation. (Vanessa Kahin Photo)
A reality TV show specializing in makeovers helped a Roswell native get back in touch with who she is and how much she’s accomplished in life.
Linda Elliott was featured on Carson Nation, a television show on the Oprah Winfrey Network, during an episode that aired Sept. 6. The experience helped Elliott realize that the best part of her life is not in her past, but yet to come.
Elliott grew up in Roswell and graduated from Roswell High in 1972. She said she struggled to fit in, something she felt was hard for her as a black woman growing up in the 1960s.
“Of course I felt different,” Elliott said. “Of course I felt left out. … My whole thing was to get out of Roswell.”
Elliott got her chance to leave thanks to a teacher who saw potential in her. Kathryn Boldra, who taught office occupations at Roswell High at the time, realized Elliott was a good typist and helped her land jobs around town. Boldra also helped Elliott by bringing in two soldiers to speak to her class, during which Elliott learned she could join the Army while only doing administrative duties. Elliott saw her chance to leave Roswell and ensure a career.
After graduating from high school, Elliott went to basic training in Fort McClellan, Ala., then to Fort Leonard Wood, Mo. After qualifying for a security clearance for the National Security Agency, Elliott moved to Fort Meade, Md.
Elliott eventually left the Army and attended Clarion University of Pennsylvania where she graduated magna cum laude in 1986 with a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education. She got a master’s degree in the same subject from Regent University in Virginia Beach, Va., in 1994.
One of Elliott’s biggest achievements as a teacher was helping a classroom of struggling third-graders ace, or come close to acing, a state standards test.
Elliott decided to return to Roswell after she retired from teaching. She had lived away from Roswell from 1972 until 2009, only returning to Roswell for brief family visits.
“I became a woman, and got a reputation as a topnotch teacher on the East Coast,” Elliott said. “Moving back (to Roswell) was a shock to me. … I felt lost when I came back here.”
In Roswell, Elliott began to substitute teach. She asked her daughter, Lorraine, who lives in Virginia Beach, Va., if she could take in two of her grandchildren — Alexis, 8, and Dominick, 3.
Although having her grandchildren in Roswell and substitute teaching helped Elliott stay busy and focused, it also made her see herself solely as a nanny and a housekeeper. To make matters worse, the stress of returning to Roswell made Elliott lose weight. She went from a size six to a size two bordering on a size zero. Currently in her fifties, Elliott had no idea how to re-do her wardrobe when clothes her size were often tailored to teenaged girls.
It was Queen Shelton, the wife of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church’s pastor Michael Shelton, who helped Elliott get back on track to being and looking like a professional by nominating her to be on Carson Nation.
One day in late January, Carson Kressley, the host of Carson Nation, knocked at Elliott’s front door. She broke down as she told Kressley how she felt about her looks.
“I felt like I was holding a bucket of tears,” she said. Elliott said Kressley told her the show was “not just about putting clothes on … this is about empowering you.” Kressley then showed Elliott a variety of clothes, and suggested ways she can shop for clothes. Elliott also had her hair and makeup done.
Just two days after meeting Kressley, Elliott was secretly ushered into the Snazzy Pig, where her family and friends — who had been reunited by members of the show’s crew — awaited her.
“I cried,” Elliott recalled. “There were all these people that I love, looking at me.”
For Elliott, doing the Carson Nation show was not so much about being on TV as it was about getting back the confidence she had once lost.
“I got two wonderful days of fun and education,” she said. “I’m still looking for what’s next for me.”