Sitting in the audience of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” Alexis Harris didn’t know why she was invited to a live taping in Los Angeles.
Harris, a Shoemaker High School alumna, was just excited to be in the same room as a woman who inspires her.
After entering a nationwide model search, Harris, 18, wrote DeGeneres about how much the Emmy award-winning talk show host inspired her to start the nonprofit, Students Making Impacts In Lives Everywhere.
When DeGeneres announced Harris was chosen out of more than 20,000 applicants to become the newest CoverGirl, she covered the huge smile on her face with her hands as she rushed to greet DeGeneres and her family, who were already on stage.
“I feel like this is all a dream and I’m going to wake up and not really be a CoverGirl,” said Harris, who’s in Killeen during spring break. “It feels amazing. It feels unreal.”
Harris, who attends the University of Texas-San Antonio, has given back to the community through SMIILE.
The organization launched June 25, and she’s held food drives for the Mission Soup Kitchen and a clothing drive that benefited the Hope Pregnancy Center, Killeen Salvation Army and Families in Crisis.
“There’s such a need to help those who can’t help themselves. A lot of times those who are less fortunate get walked over or looked over,” she said. “I just want to be one of those people who can really help them and let them know they’re just as important as anybody else.”
During a live taping that aired March 7, DeGeneres said Alexis represents everything she was looking for in the next CoverGirl.
“You’re so amazing,” DeGeneres said. “To be your age and to be more concerned about helping other people, that’s exactly what we were looking for — beauty inside and out.”
Harris plans to use her CoverGirl status and the $20,000 she received to reach out to thousands of people to make a positive impact in their lives.
“There are so many celebrities out there, and young celebrities even, who don’t use their platform for positivity,” Harris said. “I just want to inspire other people.”
Since being named a CoverGirl, many people have already become interested in contributing to SMIILE’s mission and holding donation drives in their communities, Harris said. “That’s just getting more people on board so we can make a bigger impact and even nationwide.”
While most parents would be proud of their children, retired Staff Sgt. Keesha Harris said the best word to describe how she feels about her daughter’s success is “happy.”
“Hard work pays off if you hang in there, and she did,” said the single mother of four. “I’m still waiting for the real shock to set in because it seems surreal.”
Keesha Harris has watched the video of her daughter being announced a CoverGirl at least 50 times in the past week and said she cries happy tears every time.
Harris will shoot a campaign with DeGeneres next month, which will run in an upcoming issue of People magazine.
“It hasn’t hit me yet. I don’t know when it’s going to hit me,” she said. “I’m still just like on cloud nine. It’s like it never really happened. No matter how many times I watch the video, it’s like, ‘Nah, that didn’t really happen.’”