Some celebrities didn’t start out walking down the red carpet but walking across the stage in beauty pageants. When she was only 19, Michelle Pfeiffer was crowned Miss Orange County, and Halle Berry was the first runner-up in the Miss United States pageant.
Now, they’re an Oscar-nominated Actress and an Academy Award winner, respectively. Keep reading to learn who once coveted the crown before moving into Tinseltown’s spotlight.
Lynda Carter began taking acting lessons during the 1970s, soon finding herself in Hollywood and playing the beloved superheroine Wonder Woman on the popular television show.
Before landing the iconic role, Carter gained national attention when she won Miss World USA in 1972, representing Arizona. During Miss World 1972, she landed in the Top 15.
A year before Vanna White decided to pursue an acting career, she competed in Miss Georgia USA but didn’t place. But that didn’t stop her from making it to Hollywood and pretty much becoming the face of television game shows.
White is arguably best known for her role on The Wheel of Fortune.
A three-time Academy Award-nominated actress, Michelle Pfeiffer has starred in films such as Dangerous Liaisons, The Fabulous Baker Boys, and Batman Returns. Before taking her shot in Hollywood, though, she was a beauty pageant contestant.
In 1978, she won the crown for Miss Orange County before trying her hand at Miss California, where she came in sixth.
While getting ready to graduate from Texas A&M University-Kingsville with a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology, Eva Longoria competed in beauty pageants. In 1998, she won the crown for Miss Corpus Christi USA.
Eventually, she made her way to Hollywood and got her big break on The Young and the Restless and later Desperate Housewives. The two performances earned Longoria numerous awards, including a few Screen Actors Guild Awards.
Italian actress Sophia Loren entered the Miss Italia pageant in 1950 under the name Sophia Lazzaro; she was 15 at the time. The Golden Age of Hollywood starlet won the title of Miss Elegance.
Of course, the Academy Award-winning actress is better known for her work in Hollywood than pageantry, starring in critically acclaimed films such as Marriage Italian Style, Two Women, and Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.
While attending the University of Pennsylvania, Candice Bergen was crowned Miss University, her only pageant credit. But that didn’t stop her from playing head pageant lady Kathy Morningside in Miss Congeniality in 2001, opposite Sandra Bullock.
Bergen is arguably best known for her title role in the 1980s-’90s sitcom Murphy Brown.
Priyanka Chopra Jonas
Priyanka Chopra Jonas is now one of India’s highest-paid actresses, appearing in Bollywood films such as Andaaz, Aitraaz, Krrish, and Don. Before tackling Bollywood and then Hollywood, Chopra Jonas was a beauty queen.
She competed in iconic competitions such as Miss India and Miss World. Chopra Jonas won the crowns of both pageants.
Vanessa Williams is not only an 11-time Grammy Nominated artist, but she’s also a Tony Award-nominated Actress for the musical Into the Woods. The singer has numerous hit singles, including “Save the Best for Last.”
But before her music and acting careers took off, Williams was crowned Miss America in 1984.
In 1983, at the age of 20, Michelle Yeoh won the title of Miss Malaysia. From there, Yeoh went on to star in some pretty epic films.
Performing her own stunts, Yeoh appeared in critically acclaimed films such as Academy Award-winning Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies, and the MCU films Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings.
While Delta Burke is arguably best known for her role as Suzanne Sugarbaker in the sitcom Designing Women, she was a pageant queen in her home state of Florida.
In 1972, she won the title of Miss Flame before going on to win State Miss Flame. From there, Burke won the title of Miss Florida, the youngest in pageant history to earn the crown.
Lee Meriwether won the title of Miss California in 1954 after taking the crown for Miss San Francisco. A year later, Meriweather went on to win the title of Miss America.
While her acting career started in the 1950s with the film 4D Man, Meriweather is arguably best known for her performance in the 1970s crime drama Barnaby Jones.
Actress and television personality Vanessa Lachey’s beauty pageant days included winning Miss South Carolina Teen USA and then Miss Teen USA in 1998. She was the first South Carolina representative to win the title and that of Miss Congeniality.
While Lachey has hosted numerous television programs since her pageant days, including Entertainment Tonight and Love is Blind, she’s also starred in shows such as NCIS: Hawaiʻi, Dads, and 30 Rock.
While Diane Sawyer is known for her time in front of the news cameras for Good Morning America, ABC World News Tonight, and 60 Minutes, she took another path during high school.
As a senior in high school in 1963, Sawyer was a representative from the Commonwealth of Kentucky during the annual national America’s Junior Miss scholarship pageant. She won the crown!
“The biggest Israeli star,” Gal Gadot began her career at the age of 18, winning the title of Miss Israel in 2004. She also competed in Miss Universe but didn’t take home the crown.
While in college, she began working on her acting career, landing the small role of Gisele in the Fast and Furious franchise. She didn’t gain international stardom until 2016, when she began playing the role of Diana Prince, aka Wonder Woman, in the DCEU.
Before becoming the Doritos Girl in 1998 and Rita Lefleur in the sitcom Eve, Ali Landry was in the beauty pageant circuit. Her first pageant was in 1998, where she won the title of Miss Louisiana Teen USA.
From there, she went on to compete in Miss Teen USA, placing seventh overall. Landry then went on to win Miss Louisiana in 1996 and the title of Miss USA.
Kenya Moore went from modeling to winning the Miss Michigan USA and Miss USA crowns in 1993. That year, she also competed for the title of Miss Universe, placing fifth overall.
Moore began her acting career appearing on various television shows, including The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. She’s arguably best known for her role in the Bravo reality show The Real Housewives of Atlanta.
While attending Northeastern State University, singer Carrie Underwood competed in numerous pageants. In 2004, she was selected as the Miss NSU runner-up, a loss that didn’t really affect her future fame!
That same year, Underwood auditioned for a spot on American Idol. She went on to win the entire competition and is now a huge country music star with seven Grammy Awards to her name.
Singer Rihanna was never one for pageants. She only competed in her high school’s Miss Combermere pageant on a dare from her friends. To her surprise, Rihanna wound up winning the title.
A nine-time Grammy Award winner, Rihanna has numerous hit singles under her belt, including “Umbrella,” “We Found Love,” and “Rude Boy.”
Before becoming an Academy Award-winning actress, Halle Berry was a prominent figure in the beauty pageant circuit throughout the 1980s. She won her first crown in 1985, winning Miss Teen All American.
The following year, she was the first runner-up in the Miss USA pageant. For the interview portion of the pageant, Berry told the judges she hoped to be in the entertainment industry one day, having something to do with the media. She was awarded the highest score.
Social media personality, model, and reality TC star Olivia Culpo was a big face in the beauty pageant circuit. In 2012, she not only won the title of Miss Rhode Island, but also that of Miss USA.
Due to the latter crown, Culpo went on to represent the USA at Miss Universe. She won once again, becoming the eighth American to win the contest.
Before Gretchen Carlson became one of the more well-known broadcast journalists, appearing on Fox & Friends, The Early Show, and The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson, she won the Miss America crown.
After winning the crown in 1989, Carlson sat on the board of directors for the Miss America Organization, striving to change the way women are judged — from appearance to achievements.
Before becoming one of the child stars on The Mickey Mouse Club, The Princess of Pop, Britney Spears, was something of a local beauty queen, winning local pageants as a young girl.
From there, she became an international superstar, singing hit songs like “Oops!…I Did It Again” and winning a Grammy, eight Billboard Music Awards, an American Music Award, and more.
During her childhood, actress Tiffani Thiessen was an avid participant in the beauty pageant circuit. In 1987, she was crowned Miss Junior America before appearing on the cover of Teen magazine.
The cover story is what jump-started Thiessen’s career, helping her land her breakout role as Kelly on the sitcom Saved by the Bell.
Actress Sharon Stone didn’t appear in a pageant until college. In 1976, she won the title of Crawford County, Pennsylvania, and was one of the candidates selected to be Miss Pennsylvania.
While she didn’t move forward in her pageant career, Stone dropped out of college to move to New York, kickstarting her modeling and acting career. Now, she is an Academy Award-nominated actress.
If there is a little-known fact about singer and actress Selena Gomez, it is that she was once on the children’s beauty pageant circuit. She opted not to make a career out of pageantry, though, choosing acting and music instead.
A triple threat, Gomez is known for her roles in Wizards of Waverley Place, Spring Breakers, and Only Murders in the Building. Her hit singles include “Lose You to Love Me,” “The Heart Wants What It Wants,” “Come & Get It,” and more.
When they were young, actress and singer Demi Lovato competed in the Texas State Cinderella Miniature Miss contest. According to Lovato, it wasn’t a great time.
Even so, they went on to become a huge name in Hollywood, earning 222 award nominations throughout their career, including two for Grammy Awards.
Kathie Lee Gifford
Kathie Lee Gifford is a talk show staple, starring on shows such as Live! With Regis and Kathie Lee and Today. But back in the 1970s, Gifford was a beauty pageant contestant.
At the age of 17, she won the title of Junior Miss Maryland. Then she went on to compete in America’s Junior Miss Pageant.
One Tree Hill actress Sophia Bush was one of 1,000 young women to interview in hopes of becoming among the seven chosen to be on the Tournament of Roses Royal Court. From there, one is picked to be Rose Queen while the other six are Princesses.
In 2000, Bush won the title of Rose Queen, something she was not expecting at all.
Thirteen-time Grammy Award-nominated artist Katy Perry is known for her songs “I Kissed a Girl, “Firework,” “Hot n Cold,” and so many more. But before becoming a famous pop singer, Perry was a childhood pageant contestant.
During her youth, Perry competed in a few local pageants. Sadly, she never walked away with a crown.