Risky Business

Risky Business
Local women, adventurous jobs
Forget a bucket list! These two ladies are taking risks and taking names - no list required. Live vicariously through this world-record setting air-borne videographer and a drag racer driving for a cure, and find out how you can face your own fears.

Spiders, heights — we all have our fears, but Melanie Johnson seems to be fearless. She's always had the risk-taking factor running through her veins, and her thrill-seeking ways led her to start skydiving.


Before she took her first leap out of a plane, though, Melanie did everything from rock climbing for four months in Mexico to backpacking her way through Europe. One of the more life-changing experiences was when she served as a white-water rafting guide in college. 0110Fence_INSTORY.gif


As she studied fine arts, she found a way to connect her passion for adventure with her love of art by becoming a videographer for the rafting trips. She would paddle ahead of the raft in a kayak and take video of the rafters' making their way through the rapids.


After graduation, Johnson and her friends looked for an activity to match the monumental magnitude of earning their degrees, and they landed on skydiving. It only took one jump for Johnson to realize that she wanted to transfer from white water videography to freefalling footage.


After that first jump, Johnson had many more miles to fall before she would be able to start taking a camera with her on her jumps — much less get paid to do it. But she lived up to her motto: "If you can jump out of an airplane, you can do anything." And with a little persistence, a lot of courage and hundreds of jumps, Johnson made her dream come true.


Now, Johnson works as a videographer and freefly coach and organizer for Start Skydiving, a skydiving company in Middletown, Ohio, that offers some of the best skydiving instruction in the country. And taking a video in the air is a little different from a grounded shoot. "We only have 60 seconds' working time to get that perfect shot, to get those perfect angles," Johnson says. 


On the freeflying side of her career, Johnson has been a part of two world records. Last year, Johnson joined with 107 other 061410VALLEYVIEW.GIFpeople and dove head-to-earth, falling about 170 miles per hour. As if that weren't enough, each person was linked to the group, breaking the world record of the number of people linked in the sky in a head-to-earth orientation.


For her first world record the year before last, Johnson tapped into her girl power with 21 other women from 15 different countries around the world. Again with their head-to-earth orientation they all dove into the world record of the most women diving head down at one time. This November, Johnson looks to break another all-women world record in Arizona.


"Being a woman in this sport is awesome," Johnson says. "We only make up about 20 percent of the athletes in skydiving."


In addition to her world-record-breaking goals, Johnson is training to become part of Team Fast Tracks. This group of highly skilled skydivers makes up a demonstration team to pull stunts like jumping onto a football field or going all the way to France to land on the beaches of Normandy on D-day with veteran soldiers. Currently, there are no active female members, but Johnson looks to change that.


The key that keeps Johnson coming back again and again for more dives and greater achievements is the rush she gets and the freedom she feels. While skydiving might not be for everybody, everyone still can experience that thrill and freedom. "Do something big. Do something where you see the world a little different," Johnson says. "Take a risk."


If skydiving is your risk of choice, head to for more information on how to make it happen.



Back on earth, Rochelle Lecander also leaves her fear at the door. Instead of jumping out of an airplane, Lecander jumps in her 2006 Ford Mustang Cobra to tackle her need for speed.


A stay-at-home mother of two, Lecander is revved up to compete in the first ever Rooster Challenge Road Rally for the Cure. Set for Oct. 9 and 10, this weekend event combines drag racing and a drive toward a cure for breast cancer, as it raises funds for Susan G. Komen for the Cure Greater Cincinnati.


The fun starts at Thornhill dragstrip in Northern Kentucky at 3 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 9. After battling it out with a whole lotta horsepower, the party will move to Mainstays Downtown for a celebratory after party. After all, when you're racing for a cure, everyone has a reason to celebrate.


Bright and early the next morning, drivers will meet back at Thornhill dragstrip for a scavenging hunt race. Drivers each will receive seven checkpoints to go to in the order of their choosing. At each checkpoint, they will receive a playing card and a token to show that they made it to the specific checkpoint. At the end of the day, three drivers will take home awards, based on the quickest time, the shortest distance and the best poker hand from the playing cards picked up at each station.


Currently, Lecander serves as the only female driver set to compete in the Rooster Challenge. She and her Mustang Cobra will be representing Team 07. For more information about Lecander, the rest of the Rooster Challengers and the weekend event, head to


Top Photo

Photo courtesy of Start Skydiving

Model: Melanie Johnson 

Bottom Photo

Photo courtesy of The Rooster Challenge

Model: Rochelle Lecander 

Linda Palacios -

Linda Palacios is the editor of Cincy Chic. Send her an e-mail at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .Read More >>

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