23 Celebs Who Started Out as Pageant Queens
by Emily Gregor
There’s no clear path for a celebrity to take to the top. Some are born into fame, some find it on the runway, and still others get their start as beauty pageant queens. Whether they reigned supreme in competition or not, these are our favorite ex-pageant girls.
Back in 2004, Rihanna was strutting her stuff at her high school beauty pageant, where she won the title of Miss Combermere.
Selena has always been gorgeous, but this adorable #tbt of her pageant days had us squealing.
Even at 3 years old, Britney knew she was going to rule the music world as well as the pageant world. She has enough pageant trophies to fill an entire room!
If you haven’t already learned to bow down to Sasha Fierce, reconsider. She was a pageant queen and her talent—to no one’s surprise—was singing. She earned her first standing ovation at only 7 years old after performing a rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine.”
Little 8-year-old Demi Lovato was one of the most adorable heartbreakers we’ve ever seen. In 2000, Demi was crowned Texas State Cinderella Miniature Miss and she never looked back.
Catwoman didn’t always sport leather and keen feline senses. Halle competed for the title of Miss World in 1986, after winning Miss Teen All-American in 1985 and Miss Ohio USA in 1986.
Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria has always loved the spotlight. In March 1998, she was crowned Miss Corpus Christi, which came with the opportunity to compete in a talent show in Los Angeles. After winning the talent show, she stuck around LA and launched her acting career.
In a famous #tbt on Instagram, this Kardashian claims she was once Miss Teen Armenian. True or not, the Internet approved.
Although she came in second place each time, Katy Perry competed in two beauty pageants when she was growing up.
In 1972, Oprah won the title of Miss Black Tennessee. Who knew the woman who created both a magazine and a multimedia production company was also a pageant queen?
Kathie Lee Gifford
In 1970, before we all started our mornings with a glass of wine and Kathie Lee & Hoda on the last hour of the Today Show, Kathie Lee was winning crowns. This Junior Miss Maryland winner would go on to compete at America’s Junior Miss Pageant, which helped spark her career.
This fellow Catwoman star was crowned Miss Crawford County in 1975. After winning her title, she moved to the Big Apple and started her modeling career.
Ugly Betty star Vanessa Williams made a name for herself in 1984, when she was crowned Miss America. She was the first African-American woman to do so, and it launched her entertainment career.
1963 was a good year for Kentucky native Diane Sawyer. After winning the Kentucky Junior Miss Pageant, she went on to win the title of America’s Junior Miss. Now, Diane is the lead anchor on ABC World News.
Nick Lachey tied the knot with a queen! Vanessa Lachey (formerly Minillo) won Miss Teen USA in 1998.
We swear she never ages, but back in 1978, this Wheel of Fortune celeb was the fourth runner-up in the Miss Georgia University pageant!
Before she became a political machine, Sarah Palin won the hearts of Alaskans as the winner of the Miss Wasilla pageant, and she came in third in the Miss Alaska pageant in 1984. See the video of her swimsuit competition here!
Known primarily for her short skirts on Fox & Friends, Gretchen won the Miss America pageant in 1989. How did she use her scholarship? She attended Stanford to study TV journalism.
Another #tbt reminiscent of Toddlers and Tiaras, Hilary Duff posted on Twitter a flashback to her pageant days.
Ali Landry, who entered the spotlight after being featured in a Frito Lay commercial during the 1998 Super Bowl telecast, was a genuine queen. She was not only crowned Miss Louisiana Teen USA in 1990, but she was also a semifinalist at MIss Teen USA 1990, going on to win both Miss Louisiana USA and Miss USA in 1996.
Crowned Miss Florida in 1974, Delta Burke most notably starred in CBS’s Designing Women in 1986; she received two Emmy nominations for Best Actress in a Comedy Series.
An actress, singer-songwriter, and activist, Lynda Carter won an Arizona beauty contest in 1972, which led to her winning Miss World USA. In the international Miss World competition, she reached the semifinals and went on to begin her acting career.
Michelle Pfeiffer won the Miss Orange County beauty pageant in 1978 and competed in Miss California the same year. While she didn’t win the title, she found an acting agent and was able to start auditioning for TV and film roles as a result.