Before snagging eleven Daytime Emmys, two Primetime Emmys, four People’s Choice Awards, an Oscar nod, and tons of other best-person-on-earth awards, an 18-year-old Oprah Winfrey won 1971’s Miss Black Tennessee competition. Oprah didn’t make the finals of Miss Black America, so she decided to take over America, one book club member at a time.
Katy Perry, apparent parasol aficionado, was indeed a pageant kid. But judging by this gem of a baby photo, little Perry avoided the sunless tanner and fake eyelashes of today’s pageant norm. Always doing what’s unexpected, that Katy Perry — y’know, kissing girls behind Russell Brand’s back and whatnot. Katy Perry stuff.
What do 2007’s Miss Teen South Carolina and Sarah Palin have in common? Aside from innovative thoughts on American maps and American bells, they were both beauty queens. Palin finished third in 1984’s Miss Alaska pageant, but won Miss Congeniality. Sandra Bullock 2012?
You sure knew how to pick ’em, Ohio. In 1986, Halle Berry was deemed first runner-up to Miss USA, a position won by Christy Fichtner of Texas. Want to know where Christy is now? Well, you might remember her as first runner-up in 2003’s reality show, Who Wants to Marry My Dad. We bet that dad wanted to marry Halle Berry.
Before Diane Sawyer made us cry with special reports of famine and terminal illnesses, she made pageant hopefuls cry on the catwalk. Sawyer won America’s Junior Miss in 1963, spent the next three years touring and promoting the Coca-Cola pavilion at New York World’s Fair, then proceeded to become the Diane Sawyer we know today.
Blake Shelton, country music star and 2011 judge on The Voice, wasn’t always known for his Nashville croons. As revealed during an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Shelton’s mom would dress him up to enter various “girl pageants” as a male model. Check out that glamor shot!
In 1976, a judge for Miss Crawford County in Meadville, Pennsylvania told Sharon Stone to move to New York and become a model. In 1977, Stone followed that advice and the rest is Basic Instinct, Total Recall, and white lies about being in Mensa.
Gretchen Carlson, best known as Fox & Friends co-host and, as hinted by her top Google results, the short skirts she wears on said program, was Miss America in 1989. Carlson used the Miss America scholarship to study TV journalism at Stanford and later score gigs at CBS and Fox News.
Vanessa Williams was the first African American to win Miss America in 1984, but resigned after some questionable photos surfaced and were published in Penthouse magazine. Keep your clothes on, Miss America hopefuls, not everyone is as lucky as Vanessa Williams in post-scandal success.
Fourteen years before Vanessa Williams, Mary Hart threw her hat in the Miss America race as Miss South Dakota. Hart didn’t win, but still pursued a path of fame, ultimately becoming host of Entertainment Tonight for twenty-nine years. Did you know Mary Hart holds the Guinness World Record for longest serving entertainment news host?