Most beauty pageant winners do their one-year reign and then move onto a private life (either by choice or their star didn’t take off). Which will it be for Miss Universe winner Jimena Navarrete and the runner-ups? (You don’t have to win to parlay the opportunity into celebrity status.) Let’s take a look at some famous women, many of whom are mothers, who got their start competing for a crown. The most famous woman on Earth is one of them!
Oprah Winfrey: Long before becoming must-see tv guru for stay-at-home moms everywhere, Oprah Winfrey won the 1971 Miss Fire Prevention and Miss Black Tennessee titles. When asked what she would do with a million dollars, Winfrey delighted the judges when she declared, “I’d be a spending fool!” She competed in the Miss Black America Pageant, but didn’t make the finals.
Vanessa Williams: The first African-American woman ever to win the Miss America Pageant, Williams won both the swimsuit and talent competitions at the national contest. She was asked to resign when Penthouse magazine published shocking photos she had posed for earlier. Far from being ruined by the scandal, she rebounded and achieved fame as a singer and actress. Twice divorced, she has four children.
Diane Sawyer: Named America’s Junior Miss in 1962, Sawyer used her pageant scholarship money to attend Wellesley College, worked as a weathergirl, then press aide to Richard Nixon during his presidency and after his Watergate resignation. She then worked her way up to become the golden girl of news anchors. She is married to director Mike Nichols and has no children.
Halle Berry: Her pageant titles include Miss Teen All American, Miss Ohio-USA, and first runner-up to Miss USA, and she made history as the first African-American woman to win the Academy Award for Best Actress. Berry has a toddler daughter, Nahla.
Kathie Lee Gifford: Before rising to TV fame as star of Live with Regis and Kathie Lee, Gifford, mother of Cody and Cassidy, represented Maryland in the America’s Junior Miss Pageant. She was quietly disqualified when she inadvertently broke the rules by chatting with a man in public. Seems she’s always had a big mouth…
Tiffany Amber Thiessen: This new mom parlayed her titles, Miss Junior America and winner of the ‘Teen Magazine Model Search, into a successful television career. The actresses’ roles include Saved by the Bell and Beverly Hills 90210.
Gretchen Carlson: This high school valedictorian and Stanford University student who had also studied at Oxford University in England, Carlson was chosen as Miss American 1989. Competing as Miss Minnesota, she is the only classical violinist to win and is credited with being one of the brightest titleholders ever. She now serves as a co-host of the morning news program Fox and Friends and has two young children.
Mary Hart: Famed for her insured legs and perennial perkiness, the anchor of Entertainment Tonight competed as Mary Johanna Harum, Miss South Dakota, in the 1970 Miss America Pageant. She made the top ten, but lost to Phyllis George. Hart later co-hosted PM Magazine and co-hosted with Regis Philbin before moving on to E.T. fame. She and her husband have one son.