18 Famous Faces Who Started Out as Beauty Queens

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Every celebrity in Hollywood has to get their start somewhere, whether that’s through acting in commercials, appearing in a reality TV, or being lucky enough to know someone in the business. But these famous people made their mark in the beauty pageant circuit. Find out who took home the crown and what they’ve been up to since their reign (and while you’re at it, you may want to learn even more about the lives of other famous faces — like Marilyn Monroe, Julie Andrews, and Audrey Hepburn — too!)

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THEN: Diane Sawyer

You know her as a former anchor on ABC World News, but during her senior year of high school, Diane represented the Commonwealth of Kentucky in America’s 1963 Junior Miss scholarship pageant and won.

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NOW: Diane Sawyer

Since her pageant days, she has become one of the most famous journalists in the world. Her accomplishments have been recognized by millions, and she was even inducted into the Television Hall of Fame in 1997.

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THEN: Lynda Carter

In 1972, Lynda won the Miss World USA contest, eventually going on to represent America in the Miss World pageant. While she didn’t win the big title, her accomplishments gave her national attention.

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NOW: Lynda Carter

In the mid-1970s, Lynda starred in the title role in the television series Wonder Woman, becoming one of the most famous faces in the world of superhero fandom.

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THEN: Michelle Pfeiffer

At just 19 years old, Michelle Pfeiffer (pictured on the screen behind the cohosts of The View) was crowned Miss Orange County in 1978. She went on to compete in the Miss California pageant.

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NOW: Michelle Pfeiffer

After her breakout role in the 1983 classic Scarface, Michelle went starred in blockbusters like Batman Begins, Dangerous Liaisons, and What Lies Beneath.

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THEN: Vanna White

Though we now know her as the face of Wheel of Fortune, Vanna got her start as a professional model and pageant contestant, earning the runner-up title in the 1978 Miss Georgia pageant.

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NOW: Vanna White

Since then, Vanna has been honored for her contributions to television with her own handprints on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

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THEN: Vanessa Williams

Vanessa Williams was crowned Miss Syracuse and Miss New York in 1983, then took the title of Miss America 1984, making her the first Black Miss America.

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NOW: Vanessa Williams

After she left the pageant world behind, Vanessa went on to have an immensely successful career in television, earning Emmy and SAG nominations. One of her biggest roles was as the fashion diva audiences loved to hate, Wilhelmina Slater, on Ugly Betty.

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THEN: Sarah Palin

In 1984, the future Governor of Alaska won the Miss Wasilla pageant, then went on to compete in the Miss Alaska beauty pageant, taking third place overall.

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NOW: Sarah Palin

After unsuccessfully running with John McCain in the 2008 Presidential Election and resigning from her position as the Governor of Alaska in 2009, Sarah launched her own online news network, the Sarah Palin Channel, in 2014.

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THEN: Halle Berry

Halle won Miss Teen All American in 1985 and Miss Ohio USA in 1986, finally becoming the runner-up for the title of Miss USA in 1986. That year, her interview was scored the highest among judges, making it clear she would have a career where her voice would be heard.

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NOW: Halle Berry

Given that she is widely considered one of the world’s most beautiful people, it makes sense that the Oscar-winning actress began her career with pageantry.

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THEN: Eva Longoria

Before becoming an actress, Eva won the title of Miss Corpus Christi, USA, in 1998. With that dazzling smile and excellent posture, it’s no wonder why.

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NOW: Eva Longoria

Eva has appeared in numerous films and TV shows, but she is best known for her role as the spoiled yet lovable Gabrielle Solis in Desperate Housewives. After founding Eva’s Heroes, a charity dedicated to assisting developmentally disabled children, she was named Philanthropist of the year by The Hollywood Reporter.

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THEN: Olivia Culpo

After earning the title of Miss Rhode Island, Olivia went on to win the Miss USA crown in 2012. Afterwards, she entered the Miss Universe circuit and won the title in that competition as well.

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NOW: Olivia Culpo

Olivia has since become a fixture on the fashion scene as a model and influencer. In 2018, she appeared in the E! reality show Model Squad, alongside models Devon Windsor, Nadine Leopold, and Shanina Shaik.

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THEN: Candice Bergen

Although she was born into a Hollywood family, Candice didn’t enter the movie industry until after her education at the University of Pennsylvania, where she was crowned Miss University in 1963.

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NOW: Candice Bergen

Three years after she donned the crown, Candice made her on-screen debut in The Group. Since then, she’s became well known for her work in movies like Carnal Knowledge, Miss Congeniality, and on TV in Murphy Brown.

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THEN: Priyanka Chopra

Priyanka was crowned Miss India in 2000 and later that same year went on to win the prestigious Miss World title.

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NOW: Priyanka Chopra

After her reign of Miss World ended, Priyanka become one of the most successful actresses in India. In 2015, she landed Quantico on ABC and has appeared in movies like Baywatch and Isn’t It Romantic.

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THEN: Michelle Yeoh

Long before her Hollywood fame, Michelle was crowned the winner of Miss Malaysia in 1983.

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NOW: Michelle Yeoh

After breaking into Hollywood, Michelle has starred in movies like James Bond: Tomorrow Never Dies, Memoirs of a Geisha, and Crazy Rich Asians.

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THEN: Lee Meriwether

Born in Los Angeles, Lee earned the title of Miss America in 1955. In those days, winning meant getting a crown, robe, and scepter.

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NOW: Lee Meriwether

Lee began modeling and acting after her pageant win. She primarily worked in TV throughout the ’60s and ’70s and is known her roles on shows Barnaby Jones and Star Trek.

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THEN: Vanessa Lachey

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Now: Vanessa Lachey

After her pageant run, Vanessa attended college, then was an MTV VJ on Total Request Live. She recently hosted the Netflix dating show Love Is Blind with her husband, Nick Lachey.

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THEN: Gal Gadot

After serving in the Israeli army, Gal competed in the Miss Israel competition and won in 2004. That same year, she competed in the Miss Universe competition, but didn’t take home the crown. “It kind of happened to me, they offered for me to participate in the pageant. I went for the experience and then I won and I was overwhelmed, and then I had to do the Miss Universe pageant,” Gal said on Jimmy Kimmel Live!

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NOW: Gal Gadot

Gal went on to become an actress and model in Israel. In 2009, she began appearing in the Fast & Furious franchise films and later made her film debut as Wonder Woman in Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.

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