See how former Miss USA and Miss Universe winners have aged gracefully—and learn their secrets for staying fit and fabulous
Life After the Crown
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A new Miss Universe will be crowned November 9 in Moscow during a night that's sure to be filled with amazing glitzy gowns and show-stopping bikini bodies. Though there was a lot of controversy over a few of this year’s Miss USA contestants being a little too thin, one thing that isn’t debatable is that the Miss Universe Organization has always strived to represent poise, class, intelligence, and the desire to make the world a better place.
But what does it really take to get in shape for the competition? And what happens after a winner's year of reign? We reconnected with 15 former beauty queens from the last five decades to learn the ins and outs of pageant makeup tricks, bikini workout regimens, and some of the most memorable moments.
Photo: Miss Universe Organization
Terry Lynn Huntingdon, Miss USA 1959
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Miss USA 1959, Terry Lynn Huntingdon went on to become a TV and film actress before moving to Washington, D.C., to work as a freelancer photographer for the United States government. In 1972, she pursued politics on Capitol Hill and even served as a scheduler for Senator Gary Hart’s presidential campaign.
Worst beauty snafu: “Shortly after becoming Miss California, a stylist in Beverly Hills convinced me to have eyelash implant to accentuate my green eyes, one of my best features, according to her. I finally agreed and for two hours lay on a stiff table while the specialist worked away. Two weeks later, I was crowned Miss USA. The following night I became a semi-finalist in the Miss Universe Pageant, and at 2:00 in the morning, when I should have been resting up for final competition, I was sitting on the cold marble floor in the bathroom trying to glue lashes onto the lids of my eyes—many of the implants had begun to fall off that night, taking my own lashes along with them!”
Bikini-body regimen: “I’ve been a swimmer since the age of three, when I learned to swim in rivers of melted snow beneath 14,000-foot Mount Shasta, and I swam a hundred or more laps every day for three weeks to lose nine pounds prior to becoming Miss California. As for my diet, it was pretty much like that of a cow—fields of green. I ate lots of salads with vegetables straight from the garden.”
Photo: Miss Universe Organization/Barros Expedictus
Bobbi Johnson, Miss USA 1964
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Bobbi Johnson worked as a systems engineer after her reign as Miss USA 1964, then married and raised two sons while finishing college magna cum laude with a degree in accounting from North Central College in Illinois. She went on to pass the CPA exam and work part-time.
Throwback beauty tip: “My beauty routine in 1964 was quite basic: I just used soap and water to clean my face, and my makeup was pancake, which, believe it or not, was very natural looking. I used my lipstick for blush and put on mascara, eyeliner, and a small amount of concealer. The funny thing about my makeup routine was that I washed my face, put on the pancake, and then got into the bathtub and finished the rest."
Anti-aging secret: “I currently work out with friends and a trainer twice a week. We use weight machines and free weights, and also do stretching and balance exercises. I use a treadmill and elliptical for cardio the rest of the time. But the best exercise for me is playing duplicate bridge, a mentally stimulating card game that may help slow memory decline.”
Photo: Miss Universe Organization/Bobbi Johnson
Sylvia Hitchcock, Miss Universe 1967
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Since her high-profile year as Miss Universe 1967, Sylvia Hitchcock married and had three children while balancing print work and commercials. As passionate environmentalists, Hitchcock and her husband develop recycling projects and products that save energy.
Keys to confidence: “A friend once told me to put Vaseline on my teeth to keep my smile. A smile goes a long way. Give someone a big smile, and it will always radiate back to you.”
Exercise routine: “My brother and I ran a lawn-mowing service in our neighborhood, and that kind of activity keeps my body firm to this day. We have two homes now, and I do both yards, mowing, trimming hedges, and weed-wacking."
Photo: Miss Universe Organization/Sylvia Hitchcock
Wendy Dascomb, Miss USA 1969
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For Wendy Dascomb, Miss USA 1969, life post-reign meant various jobs including teaching and coordinating as well as tutoring the women’s basketball team at the University of North Carolina, where she attended college. Married with five adult children, she lives on a farm where she teaches hunter riding.
Keys to confidence: “I have never felt confident about being scrutinized in a swimsuit in front of anyone. On pageant night, I simply walked as if I were going out to feed the horses; I refused to allow the thought of thousands of people watching me to enter my brain. I chose a series of people in the audience, looked into their eyes, and tried to make them feel comfortable. I was friendly and smiled and thought of anything other than myself.”
Anti-aging secrets: “I ride horses, so I live a very active lifestyle that requires a great deal of labor, including mucking stalls, training, teaching riding, operating the tractor and excavator, feeding hay and grain, and pretending I am still 20 years old. I also eat very healthy fresh food; prepare all my meals at home; and avoid dairy, soy, corn, and wheat. I weigh 10 pounds less than I did when crowned Miss USA!”
Photo: Miss Universe Organization/Dennis Efird Photography
Barbara Peterson, Miss USA 1976
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Barbara Peterson finished her college degree in speech, political science, and American studies after her year as Miss USA 1976. She worked in marketing before becoming a producer for Minnesota’s KARE 11 TV for the next 25 years and also wrote a book, Becoming a Beauty Queen: A Complete Guide, got married, and had three sons. She now spends most of her time in philanthropy, supporting causes like education and the arts.
Bikini-body regimen: “When I was crowned Miss USA, the schedule I had before Miss Universe was extraordinarily busy, and I lived on very little sleep, especially with all the travel. Since I grew up a dancer, I would do all my normal ballet exercises in my hotel room, everything from a plié to a relevé; all I needed was a desk chair. I would also do it on the airplane. It’s a little harder today, but back then I would find a back row seat and do some of my first, second, third, fourth, and fifth positions.”
Words of wisdom: “Exercise, diet, the ability of gaining knowledge...our libraries are free. We all have access and can take charge of a little bit of our own destiny."
Photo: Miss Universe Organization/Stan Waldhauser Photography
Julie Hayek, Miss USA 1983
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Julie Hayek looked so amazing in a bikini, she scored the highest swimsuit scores during both Miss USA and Miss Universe (and by the looks of her current photo, not much has changed!). After her year representing America, she returned to UCLA, where she graduated with a degree in biology, then worked as an actress with roles in Dallas, Twin Peaks, Matlock, Hunter, and The Tonight Show. Later Hayek moved to New York to become a model by day, stock trader by night. She's currently a real estate agent and is writing a book on health and fitness.
Key to confidence: “Visualization and meditation helps build confidence. Backstage I would envision my favorite, most positive moment: I was a cheerleader at UCLA, and my favorite routine was for a song called 'Celebrate,' so I would mentally imagine performing to that song in front of 60,000 fans. We all have strong, positive moments in our lives, and if we focus on those images when we’re feeling fearful, it will help dissolve those fears and empower you to do better.”
Healthy eating philosophy: “When it comes to food, keep everything in balance. I don’t deny myself, I just eat smaller portions. And fill your refrigerator with fresh fruits that are already cleaned and arranged in glass bowls. When you’re in a grazing mood and you open the fridge, they will be there ready for your consumption.”
Photo: Miss Universe Organization/Julie Hayek
Gretchen Polhemus, Miss USA 1989
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Gretchen Polhemus was an on-camera reporter for ESPN for more than 10 years following her days as Miss USA 1989. She now hosts Good Things Utah on ABC while continuing to work in both modeling and corporate speaking.
Pageant diet: “During the competition it was always so hard to find something healthy to eat, and I saw some girls gain weight. I was bound and determined not to, so I asked a volunteer to buy me tuna and asparagus. When we went to the fancy events I would bring the cans instead of eating the big buffet. After I won Miss USA, I was on the road leading up to the Miss Universe pageant in Mexico, so I packed an entire suitcase full of just bottled water, tuna, and asparagus so I could avoid all the Mexican buffets and pastries.”
Miss USA, then and now: “Helmut hair is finally gone! Now the contestants look more natural and like girls, not so made up. I can look at them now and see their individual beauty because they’re not trying to look like the mold, as in the past. The dresses are also a lot more up-to-date with what’s actually in style.”
Photo: Miss Universe Organization/Shaun Anders Photography
Lu Parker, Miss USA 1994
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Lu Parker’s reign as Miss USA 1994 led to an incredible career in television for the past 15 years. She's a news anchor and reporter for KTLA Channel 5 in L.A. and helps animal shelters through her own non-profit.
Cupcake confession: “It was never easy. I had worked hard at my goals and training. It was for sure a motivator for me when I wanted to break my diet. I would remind myself, ‘Lu you will soon be on stage in front of millions of people in a bikini. Do you really want that cupcake?'"
Best part of being Miss USA: “I was able to build self-confidence and learned to speak in a room with anywhere from two people to 2,000. When I was backstage just before I gave up the crown to the next winner, one of the co-owners of Pageantry magazine asked me how I felt. I said, ‘I'm happy and sad. It's been just perfect but feels weird to give it up too.’ And he said, ‘Honey, you never give it up. You will always be Miss USA.’ I have never forgotten that.”
Photo: Miss Universe Organization/Lu Parker
Shanna Moakler, Miss USA 1995
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Since being crowned one of the youngest Miss USAs in more than a decade, Shanna Moakler has enjoyed acting and hosting in various mediums. She also owns her own cosmetic line, Smoak Cosmetics, and is executive director for Miss Nevada USA, coaching numerous titleholders on their journey to the top.
Bikini-body regimen: “I worked out about five days a week doing a combination of weights and cardio plus intense stretching. My diet was very clean and I had lots of small meals. Usually breakfast was an egg-white omelet with spinach and fruit; lunch consisted of turkey, chicken breast, or brown rice bowls; and I would snack on almonds and veggies. I was very competitive, so I enjoyed eating healthy and working out.”
Anti-aging secrets: “My secret weapon is the stairmill. I do 20 minutes a day at the highest incline. I also do a lot of dance-based training and yoga, and my diet is still very clean. I have a good cheat meal every Sunday but otherwise try to eat about six small meals a day, and I love protein shakes.”
Photo: Miss Universe Organization/Fadil Berisha Photography
Brook Lee, Miss Universe 1997
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After her adrenaline-packed year as Miss Universe 1997, Brook Lee went on to work in television, doing mainly hosting and commercials.
Keys to confidence: “I wish I had the secret on how to be secure in a swimsuit, but for me it was about having fun and enjoying the moment of being on stage. I would try to remember the choreography, hit my marks, and smile. If I thought too much about it, I probably wouldn't have walked out on stage.”
Bikini-body regimen: “The Miss Universe office got me a personal trainer, mainly out of concern that I was losing too much weight after winning Miss USA. I was on the job, traveling on behalf of charities, doing press on both coasts, and I was so excited and eager to do it all, I would forget to eat or just not be hungry. I started working out twice a week for an hour doing mostly resistance-band and body-weight exercises, both of which I could do anywhere. I also drank protein shakes.”
Photo: Miss Universe Organization/Brook Lee
Shawnae Jebbia, Miss USA 1998
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Crowned Miss USA 15 years ago, Shawnae Jebbia works as a medical esthetician. After her reign, the beauty was diagnosed with Meniere’s disease and lost partial hearing and traveled to a dozen different countries as a spokesperson for a hearing aid company.
Keys to confidence: “It’s all about the walk. It’s about swagger and connecting with people and the joy of feeling healthy and beautiful. That applies in real life too. When you have a chance to voice who you are, just be honest, real, confident, and tangible. Being down-to-earth and not necessarily perfect worked for me. When people can relate to you, it makes you more approachable.”
Anti-aging secrets: “I would exfoliate with a light microdermabrasion at home with crystals in my cleansers, then apply very thick products to hydrate, help heal the skin, and provide a protective occlusive barrier. I've also used sunscreen on my face every day since the age of 21, and that's been a lifesaver for looking youthful.”
Photo: Miss Universe Organization/Lauren Garceau Photography
Susie Castillo, Miss USA 2003
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Susie Castillo has stayed in the spotlight since her stint as Miss USA 2003, hosting shows on networks such as NBC, ABC Family, CBS, and MTV.
Anti-aging secret: “When I was living in New York after the pageant, I met a nutritionist who changed my life. I’ve adopted a plant-based diet and have never felt better. I don't consume processed foods including coffee, soda, and junk food, and eat whole and organic foods.”
Time-saving abs trick: “When doing weights, rather than doing nothing in between sets, work out your abs. This will cut your time down at the gym and you won't feel like you have to do an entire abs workout later.”
Photo: Miss Universe Organization/Marcel Indik Photography
Crystle Stewart, Miss USA 2008
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If you think Crystle Stewart looked stunning on stage back in 2008, check her out on the small screen! The 31-year-old bombshell stars on OWN’s For Better or For Worse, playing a real estate agent who is the peacemaker among a group of friends who have rocky relationships. In real life she holds a degree in consumer science and merchandising from the University of Houston.
Most challenging part of being Miss USA: “It's a job, it's not just all glitz and glamour. We work hard and are paid a salary, so I empathize with women who have busy schedules and are trying to maintain a healthy physique. A lot of times I wouldn’t have time to go to the gym, so I would travel with dumbbells and just do a routine in my hotel room.”
Get the pageant look: “I swear by clip-in hair extensions. They can add length and thickness to your hair without going through the long process of sew-in or strand-by-strand extensions. I was able to wear a variety of hairstyles during the competition. The other contestants thought I'd brought a hairstylist with me."
Photo: Miss Universe Organization/Paul Smith Photography
Olivia Culpo, Miss Universe 2012
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Since being crowned Miss Universe, the vivacious 21-year-old has traveled the world, working with various charitable alliances as well as enjoying opportunities in hosting, acting, and modeling. “To be able to serve as a role model is just a dream come true,” she told SHAPE. She'll relax when her official reign is over. “I'll take vacations, not wear makeup for a month, maybe more, and definitely take a little time off. I’ll go back to school at Boston University to continue my studies and see what happens. The sky’s the limit!”
Exercise routine: “Before Miss USA, I did a lot of resistance training and lifted weights, as well as cardio, especially running. But I realized quickly that all the cardio was getting rid of my butt, so I had to cut out the running for Miss Universe. Instead I would walk on the treadmill at the highest incline, which is so great for your booty.”
Muscle must-do: “My diet is a huge component for staying in shape. I try to eat five meals a day, and I always eat breakfast. It's usually a combo of carbs and protein, so I’ll either do Greek yogurt with Fiber One cereal or an egg white omelet with veggies or fruit. For snacks, I love unsweetened almonds on the go because they’re not that messy and they hold you over thanks to the protein. Lunch is turkey on a salad or in a wrap, while dinner is another lean protein, like chicken or fish, and a veggie, or I'll have steak if I feel like I need iron. Plus no alcohol—I want to be ripped!”
Photo: Miss Universe Organization/Getty Images
Erin Brady, Miss USA 2013
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As the first woman from Connecticut to be crowned Miss USA, Erin Brady is living the dream. “Getting to meet all the people I’ve been introduced to has been so amazing!” she told SHAPE.
Exercise routine: “I love Bikram yoga, especially during stressful times. It’s a great workout and it lengthens the muscles, but it’s also relaxing and stimulates the brain. I also don’t use anything more than 5-pound weights to achieve that long and lean look. I like to use them during abs workouts and squats for my legs. I’ll start out my routine with 10 minutes on the treadmill, then strength train with the weights for 45 minutes, and finally finish it all off with 10 more minutes on the treadmill. It produces incredible results.”
Fitness philosophy: “Fitness is about leading a healthy lifestyle. If you’re fit, it effects everything: You have more energy, you’re pleasant to be around, and you sleep like an angel.”
Photo: Miss Universe Organization/Getty