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Shelley Catherine Hennig Interview

Shelley Catherine Hennig was crowned Miss Teen USA 2004.
Courtesy of NBC

By: Sindy

I talked to Shelley Catherine Hennig a few days after she was crowned Miss Teen USA 2004! The 17 year-old teen from Destrehan, LA defeated 50 other contestants on August 6, 2004. Here's the scoop on her big win, her thoughts on the competition, and her future plans.

Sindy: Congratulations on becoming Miss Teen USA! How does it feel?
Shelley: It's pretty crazy. It was just an incredible experience. Before they announced, they were like, "Are you girls ready to hear?" and I shook my head no, and Hawaii shook her head yes. They announced me and I was like, "Oh my gosh, this is not supposed to happen to me!"

Sindy: How did you get involved in beauty pageants?
Shelley: I was told it could open many doors to career opportunities that I wanted. I entered the local Miss Teen St. Charles Parish festival when I was 13, just for fun, and I wound up winning that. Then last November, my dancing teacher talked me into doing the Miss Louisiana Teen USA pageant, and I actually lost the application once I got it! We couldn't find it again, and I was like, "Oh well, it's not a big deal." All of a sudden, I found it in my room and entered three weeks before, when other girls had entered three months, ten months before. So I entered really late, and wound up winning that surprisingly, and then moved on to Miss Teen USA.

Sindy: What was your favorite part of the Miss Teen USA competition?
Shelley: It's a tie between the interview and swimsuit. Interview is so fun just because you could be yourself and that's exactly what they want you to do. And the swimsuit, I'm used to dancing and being in little outfits and strutting your stuff on stage. And you can play around with the music, walk really fast, do poses, and just smile a lot and show a lot of personality.

Sindy: What do you think is the biggest issue facing teens today?
Shelley: Self-confidence. If teenagers aren't confident in themselves, then nothing positive happens for them in the future. If all teenagers would start to like themselves and do things that make them feel better about themselves, hang out with people that make them feel good rather than people that make them feel bad, then it would just make their whole lives a positive experience, and I think they would become better people. But other than the whole self-confidence issue, drinking and driving is the hugest issue to me. It happens so often, especially in my hometown. I lost a brother a few days before I started freshman year. He was 18 and he had just graduated, and he passed away because of this.

Sindy: As the new Miss Teen USA, how do you plan to work on these issues?
Shelley: I was given the wonderful privilege to be able to travel across the country. I'll be able to talk to different teenagers everywhere and really get in their heads. I always believed that teenagers should talk to teenagers. Of course they should listen to adults; they're very knowledgable. But most teenagers, to be honest, are stubborn, and they don't want to listen to adults. And I think it's really easy for teenagers to listen to teenagers, and that's what I'll be able to do.

Sindy: What are your future plans?
Shelley: Speaking is my number one priority. I just really want to become a big influence to many people across the country. Speaking against drinking and driving is probably my number one thing on my list just because I have a personal experience about it. Afterwards, I want to go into the entertainment business to do hosting, acting, dancing on Broadway.

Sindy: Do you have any advice for teenagers?
Shelley: I think the most important thing for them to know is to always be yourself. Don't let people change you. Hang out with people that make you feel good about yourself, hang out with people that are active, get involved, go to your church. If you're a dancer, go to your local nursing home and perform for them. Just get involved with your community because it'll help you out in your future, help you to become a more well-rounded person.

  • Check out the official site of Miss Teen USA for more info on Shelley Catherine Hennig and the other delegates!
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