Melanie Nichol is one of six children born to her parents in Shaw, Oregon, where her family has lived since the Great Depression. She began working in fast food at the age of 15, and then started waitressing at 16. At 19 she became a prison guard while attending community college.
During this time, she became more curious about Spanish and other academic topics to which she had not been exposed. She later went on to earn an undergraduate degree from Western Oregon University in Spanish (2004) as well as a second bachelor's degree in Biocultural Anthropology (2015) from Oregon State University. At the time of this interview, Nichol was pursuing a graduate degree in Applied Anthropology and working for the university as a Spanish instructor.