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Miss Teen USA - From Winner to Judge

Vanessa Minnillo won the Miss Teen USA pageant in 1998.
Vanessa Minnillo
Miss Teen USA contestants for the 2003 competition.
2003 Contestants
By: Sindy

I sat down with Vanessa Minnillo who is a former Miss Teen USA and now a new VJ for MTV. Vanessa is going to be a judge for the 2003 Miss Teen USA pageant on August 12, 2003. Now I know there are a lot of KW girls who have been in pageants or wanna be, so we asked Vanessa some questions about winning Miss Teen USA and about being a judge. Check it out peeps!

Sindy: Hey Vanessa, I know the girls competing in Miss Teen USA have a crazy week before the televised pageant, but do judges have a lot to do in the days before the Miss Teen USA pageant airs?

Vanessa Minnillo: We don't do anything before because there are preliminary judges who take care of narrowing the 51 girls down to 10. So, if anything, they try to keep us as far away from everything as possible and then the day of we'll get a briefing on the scoring and all that.

Sindy: Is there major responsibility and pressure that comes with being a judge?

Vanessa Minnillo: We sign a waiver saying that we don't work for the organization, we won't discriminate and we'll give everyone equal opportunity. They also give you a little pamphlet explaining to you how much you are going to affect this girl's life. They try and educate you, and give you literature on what you're doing.

Sindy: I guess you understand, better than others, about the affect winning Miss Teen USA can have on a life. Tell us how winning the pageant changed your life.

Vanessa Minnillo: Miss Teen USA has been an unbelievably positive experience. It opened so many opportunities for me. I am living the life I am right now because of that one pageant. I am in New York and I am a new VJ for MTV, we just shot 30 episodes for a summer show, The Morning After, and I'm moving to the city within the next month.

Sindy: Should girls who haven't been in pageants since they were little worry about being a rookie?

Vanessa Minnillo: Definitely not. My very first pageant was State - South Carolina. My boyfriend's dad talked me into it. I was working at a State Farm Insurance and a girl came in looking for sponsorship for a pageant and he gave her $200. I thought, wow, that's how it works. He told me to call and sign up, but it cost $900 at the time and I didn't have the money. Within 24 hours my boyfiend's dad had 10 people donate $100 so I could enter. Still, we had no idea I would win. I didn't realize that once I won, I would have to go to Nationals and represent the state. It was a good three weeks at Nationals and I was up against big hitters like Texas and Illinois - those girls are born and bred for pageants. But I thought I might as well have fun, maybe I'll win Miss Congeniality, or something. So, I had a blast and actually did win Congeniality - which was such a blessing. I was the dark horse candidate but I ended up winning it all.

Sindy: As a judge now, what do you think is the most important quality - the one you'll be looking for in Miss Teen USA 2003?

Vanessa Minnillo: A girl who knows who they are and shows it. I will support girls who go to coaches and get constructive critism but what they should take it as is something to enhance what they already have. I'm looking for someone who knows what they already have. I don't know how many times I have met very cool, down-to-earth girls but the minute they get on stage they conform to what they've been told to do, or be. You have to always remember to be yourself.

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    Most Important Teen USA Quality?

    • She's got to be original and self-confident.
    • She should smile a lot and be friendly.
    • She should be really pretty.
    • She should be very smart.

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