'Mojo' hopes to turn 'Joe' to TV jobs
By Marc D. Allan
January 18, 2003
Let's start with the obvious: Melissa Jo "Mojo" Hunter won't answer many of your questions.
Like whether she won the heart of "Joe Millionaire" on Fox's hit reality show, which airs at 9 p.m. Mondays on WXIN .
Or how she reacted to learning that the man she and the other 19 contestants thought was worth $50 million is a $19,000-a-year construction worker.
Her response is simple: You'll find out in 30 days (or less), when the series ends. She has to keep that secret, even from family and friends.
What the 25-year-old Indianapolis resident -- one of five finalists -- can say is that she loved the experience and doesn't regret it for a minute. Oh, and by the way, she's not a gold digger who was after Evan Marriott ("Joe") for the money she thought he had.
"People need to get to know the true Mojo," she said by phone; "once they find out who I really am, they know I'm the farthest thing from a gold digger."
Hunter describes herself as "a city girl with a country heart," a graduate of Broad Ripple High School (1995) and IUPUI (2000) who was a loan officer when the show was taped and now works in commercial real estate. She declined to say where.
"I've worked hard for everything I have in life, and I've come a very long way," she said. "I'm the first person in my family to graduate from high school, let alone graduate from college with a triple major.
"I'm just getting my foot in the acting door, and I'm wanting to pursue that much further. I was single at the time of the show, and I was looking for love. That's what took me on the show. I got a trip to Paris" -- contestants weren't paid but received three weeks in Paris -- "something I probably would have never been able to do."
Because access to the "Joe Millionaire" contestants has been severely limited, the vacuum of information about her has been filled with speculation. She was listening to WNOU-FM (93.1) the morning after the show's Jan. 6 debut and heard a segment called "Mojo, Friend or Foe?"
"Some of my ex-friends were calling in and talking all this b.s.," she said. "One girl called in and said, 'She's just money-hungry. Anything free, that's Melissa Jo.' Well, you know what? That girl was not complaining when she was going out to bars with me and getting free drinks. I don't beg guys for free drinks. They just offer them to me. Why not accept? It's so funny. Those people just want their little two minutes on the radio, but they won't finish the whole story.
"It hurts that I can't call up the radio station and defend myself and say, 'That girl's lying. She's only talking (trash) because her boyfriend used to want to date me.' But . . . my skin's getting thicker, and I just think it's funny as hell now."
As for the caller who derided her for working at Hooters, Hunter said she worked there for two or three months to pay for college.
"I did what I had to do. I didn't have a rich mom and dad to pay my way through school or anything like that. I had to survive on my own. I was a waitress there, and a lot of the girls were p- - - - - off because I would get lots of the modeling and promotions, and I was only there two months."
Wank and O'Brien, WNOU's morning team, said they heard from the pro- and anti-Mojo camps. Their feeling? "I don't look down on those women at all," Dave O'Brien said. "I think they're having a good time, doing something they thought would be fun, and if anybody seriously thinks they're going to find their mate on a TV show, then they need some help."
Hunter said she applied for the show after a friend sent her an e-mail about the casting call. She had no idea "Joe Millionaire" would be as popular as it is (more than 18 million viewers last week; about 164,000 in central Indiana) or that she would have such a pivotal role.
She'd like to parlay "Joe" into an acting career. "I want to ride this wave as long and high as I can. I've done 'Charmed' and 'Son of the Beach' as extras, but this is . . . a seven-episode show."
Then, reverting to secrecy, she added: "I could be on every episode, or I could be booted next week. Who knows? You've gotta watch to find out."