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Interview - Miss Teen USA, Marissa Whitley

Unfortunately, few peeps in this world have brains and beauty - but Marissa Whitley, Miss Teen USA 2001, is one of those peeps. Since Marissa's mom died when she was three, and her dad was killed when she was five, she's had a lot of tragedy and challenges to face in her young life. Not only did Marissa face 'em head on, she's managed to accomplish some pretty big goals while she's at it! Whether it's her athletic achievements (she was a varsity track and basketball star in high school) or her academic triumphs (she graduated high school with honors and got accepted at the University of Missouri) or winning the title of Miss Teen USA, Marissa Whitley is a role model for not letting your circumstances keep you down. As her Miss Teen USA reign comes to an end, Kidzworld got the chance to chat with this cool teen about her life, her success and what the future has in store.

Kidzworld: What was it like winning the pageant and hearing your name called?

  • Marissa: I was a bit surprised... more like shocked, I guess. I knew I could handle the responsibility that came with the title and it was definitely great knowing the judges saw a light in me over 50 other girls.

Kidzworld: What inspired you to compete for the Miss Teen USA crown?

  • Marissa: Well, you can't compete on that level unless you've already won and reigned at a state level. Getting involved in pageants wasn't even my idea, it was my sisters'. I had always done sports and things and my sister gave me an entry form. I thought of it as another great way to challenge myself and see what I was good at.

Kidzworld: What are some of your fave experiences from your year as Miss Teen USA?

  • Marissa: The opportunities I've had to meet great, inspirational people. Not so much the celebrities but the humanitarians... people who have changed lives and change people in more ways than one. It was great to meet Muhammad Ali and Tiger Woods who is such a role model for teens. I, myself, try to relate to a wide demographic and a variety of people.

Kidzworld: You've had a lot of struggles in your life, how did you become so successful and how can others with similar challenges be just as successful?

  • Marissa: I have learned to take life one day at a time. Make goals for yourself each day and focus on that day because tomorrow is not a guarantee. With the pageant I wanted to try something I had never done before. I definitely think you need to expand on your life - don't ever be content with it the way it is. Always put pressure on yourself, but don't let others pressure you. My favorite saying is "You'll miss 100 percent of the shots you don't take."

Kidzworld: What are your plans for the future?

  • Marissa: I want to go back to school at University of Missouri and I am going to start writing a book. I'm signing with a modeling agency and I hope to be increasingly busy in charity work. Charity work means a lot to me because I'm really about helping other people.

Marissa Facts:

  • Fave Foods: Pepperoni pizza, crab legs, french fries.
  • Fave TV Shows: Oprah,Everybody Loves Raymond,CSI.
  • Hobbies: Scrap booking, dancing, listening to music. Marissa also says, "I like playing basketball with my boyfriend. He plays for the University of Missouri and he's taller and stuff so I haven't beat him yet."
  • Gab Factor: As Miss Teen USA, Marissa Whitley got to talk with over 100,000 kids. She also did a ton of radio and TV interviews and worked closely with PAX (real Solutions to Gun Violence,) M.A.D.D. (Mother's Against Drunk Driving) and SHiNE.
  • On Working out: I like working out because it makes me feel good," says Marissa Whitley. "People should work out because they want to feel good not because they want to look like someone else."

Marissa Whitley ends her reign on Wednesday August 28, 2002 when Miss Teen USA 2002 is crowned. You can catch Marissa Whitley hand the crown off to the new Miss Teen USA, at 9 PM on CBS. *NSYNC's Chris Kirkpatrick and "bad girl" Willa Ford co-host the event while Bow Wow will shake things up with a performance. Don't forget to check it out!

Head to Miss Teen USA's Official site at www.missteenusa.com for more on the event and on Marissa Whitley.

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