melissa gotelli

Melissa Gotelli, a former ‘49ers cheerleaders and Clovis native, has been hired as suite photographer for the team, shooting photos of celebrities and team family and friends in the luxury suites at Levi Stadium. Contributed by Melissa Gotelli

published on September 18, 2017 - 12:42 PM
Written by Bridget Butler-Sullivan

After a long-time partnership with the ‘49ers, former Gold Rush cheerleader Melissa Gotelli is returning to work for the football team this season. The difference: she’ll be the one behind the camera this time around.

“While doing Gold Rush, I’d be in photo shoots myself, so I got the experience of being in front, as well as behind the camera. I’d stand next to the photographer and ask her, ‘How are you taking this photo? What lens are you using?’”

It worked. In recent years, Gotelli has gained clients for everything from maternity photo shoots to professional work such as shooting the billboard for the Fresno Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Man and Woman of the Year award (Ashley Webster, The Business Journal’s circulation manager, won the Woman of the Year honors).

After hearing about her work, last month, the ‘49ers head photographer, Terrell Lloyd, offered Gotelli an opportunity to cover behind-the-scenes footage at home games.

melissa Gotelli
Photo contributed by Melissa Gotelli

As ‘49ers’ suite photographer, she gathers shots of celebrities and the team’s family and friends while they sit in the luxury suites during game. Last Thursday was her first time shooting for the team.

Although it has not been her focus for most of her career, Gotelli is now making photography a priority for future endeavors. “It wasn’t until I quit the Niners that I realized I needed to fill the void because I wasn’t dancing anymore. That answer came in my photography.”

Gotelli is a self-taught photographer who has been gaining skills in the trade since age 19. At the time, she used photography to promote her clothing store, Bliss Boutique.

“I knew that if I wanted to get ahead of my competitors, I needed to start a website,” she recalled. “Instead of hiring a photographer, I winged it, bought a camera, and rallied my friends to model the clothes.”

So began her career in photography. As the timeline would have it, in the same year, Gotelli auditioned to be a cheerleader for the ‘49ers — and made it. This simultaneously made her three-parts business owner, professional cheerleader and full-time student at Fresno State.

In her years with the Gold Rush, Gotelli performed in two Super Bowls, was a Pro Bowl cheerleader in 2014, and more than doubled the average 2-3 years people spend on the team. When she left in 2016, she knew it was the right choice. “When I left Gold Rush, I felt accomplished and ready to put 100 percent into my next adventure.”

The entrepreneur has since sold Bliss, and currently doubles as a photographer and sales and marketing director for a local health care company. In the past few years, she has substantially increased her online presence, which now includes a photography website, Facebook, and Instagram. To view her portfolio, visit

Gotelli is a Clovis native, who has lived in the area her whole life. She graduated from Clovis East in 2009, where she then went on the study fashion merchandising and business at Fresno State. Although she loves the area, Gotelli is open to expanding her photography business elsewhere as well. She is always looking for more opportunity, and is interested in developing her photography skills to things such as culinary art.

While Gotelli’s contract with the ‘49ers is currently seasonal, she has great interest in expanding it to a yearly agreement. “I love working for the ‘49ers, and would absolutely continue working for them in the future.”

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