|P a g e a n t N e w s B u r e a u|
|Paging Miss Swenson |
Miss Minnesota USA is a busy executive in a large information-related company, handling 225 accounts. It's not always easy to get her on the phone, but being a sharp businesswoman, she makes every effort to be accessible. "This is Paige Swenson," her recorded voice says. "If you have me paged, I'll get back to you as soon as possible." And she does.
During an interview, her sense of efficiency is most welcome.
|When a reporter who barely passed economics has a hard time understanding her description of her job, she cuts through the jargon. "Just say I'm a consultant," she says tactfully, and changes the subject. That's fine. We wanted to talk about pageants anyway. |
Ms. Swenson got into beauty competition in her teens, "even though my mother was against it." She quickly took care of business on the pageant stage, winning the Miss Minnesota Teen USA title. She was part of the famous Teen USA "Class of '94," and she was one of those attending the five-year reunion in Shreveport in 1999.
|She sits on the Minnesota Executive Board of the American Cancer Society. Breast cancer is a special concern of hers, because her mother has battled the disease for 13 years. But she also works to raise awareness about testicular cancer. You don't often hear women talking about that condition, but she does so with conviction and without a trace of self-consciousness. |
Her mother's cancer doesn't affect Ms. Swenson's prospects for the disease, because she is adopted. But her interest in the genetic risk led her to begin to search for her birth mother. She found her in 1999, and it was a more emotional moment than she ever expected. For privacy reasons, Ms. Swenson doesn't discuss the lady's name or hometown, but we can tell you one thing about her She'll be watching the Miss USA pageant on Feb. 4.
Crown photo courtesy of Paige Swenson, reunion photo by Benjamin Gibbs / PNB
When Sallie Toussaint was growing up in Connecticut, some kids at school called her "the Jamaican." Geography clearly wasn't their best subject. She's an American, of course, and her heritage isn't Jamaican at all. She's the daughter of a clergyman-diplomat from Trinidad and Tobago, a Caribbean nation that has produced two Miss Universes.
|Numerous women have competed at Miss USA and eventually wound up in the Miss World Pageant. Ms. Toussaint is that rare beauty who took the opposite path. In 1997, while working on a journalistic internship, she represented the United States at the Miss World Pageant in Seychelles. Now, in 2000, she's in the Miss USA Pageant, as the delegate from her home state, Connecticut. |
If you are a reader of pageant.com, you're familiar with the irrepressible Ms. Toussaint.
|A couple of years ago, after her Miss World experience, she gave a fun and freewheeling Internet interview about life as a beauty queen. |
A lot has changed since then, in her life and in the pageant world, but the interview remains a classic. And it's still available for reading.
|The modeling photos that run with that interview give a sense of how varied is the Toussaint look, which is assertive and sassy but always feminine. When we asked her to sum up her philosophy of beauty, she quoted a line from Rodgers and Hammerstein "I enjoy being a girl." She's good at it, no doubt about that. |
Photos courtesy of Sallie Toussaint
Lynnette Cole is from Columbia, a Tennessee town that's known to history buffs as the home of President James K. Polk. He's not as famous as some other U.S. presidents, but he left an important legacy. He added vast chunks of land to the United States, much of it through a controversial war with Mexico. If not for Polk, the Miss USA Pageant would be a whole lot smaller (and the Miss Mexico Pageant would be a whole lot bigger).
Ms. Cole is a more peaceable sort, waging all her battles on the pageant stage.
|But she's a conqueror. She was Miss Tennessee Teen USA in 1995, and in 1997 she won the Miss Teen All American crown. |
Her fellow contenders in the pageant world sometimes say they fear Ms. Cole because of her winning ways. But they are very fond of her personally, and she has friends across the country. In 1999, when PNB asked the new Miss Teen All American, Jenna Edwards, if she had any role models in the business, Ms. Edwards replied, "Lynnette Cole. She is terrific in every situation."
Ms. Cole learned her people skills in an extraordinary way. She grew up with 127 other girls.
"My father is a psychotherapist," she explains, "and girls who had to be removed from difficult home lives came to stay with our family for a while." The girls, who stayed there a few at a time, looked upon Ms. Cole as a little sister. "They taught me things," she recalls, including beauty tips that have proved useful in pageant competition.
Carrying on the family legacy, Ms. Cole is studying to become a child advocate attorney, helping find foster homes or other homes for kids who have had to be removed from their families.
|Her unusual upbringing has made Ms. Cole extraordinarily self-reliant. As a teenage model, she visited South Africa and toured the country alone, just after the fall of apartheid. "It was the most exciting thing I'd ever done," she says. But there are plenty of thrills ahead. |
Photos by Benjamin Gibbs / PNB
Jamie Kern, Miss Washington USA, can do more on a stage than just look beautiful and move gracefully. She can talk. She has spoken professionally in such diverse places as Japan and Australia, as well as throughout the United States. She was selected as the 1999 student speaker at Washington State University's commencement ceremony. She shared the platform with Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen (one of our favorite billionaires).
Ms. Kern is from Microsoft country, the region around Puget Sound, a place of mist-shrouded evergreens and cosmopolitan cities.
|But when she decided on a university, she picked Washingon State, in the farm and ranch country far to the east. Some people have described Washington as two states, and she's at home in both. |
She plans to move even farther east in the coming years. She's been accepted at MBA programs at Yale and Columbia universities, and is trying to decide on which it will be.
|And where will she be in 2010? Maybe on the air. "I want to be the next Barbara Walters," she says. Or she may opt for running a multimillion-dollar breast cancer endowment fund. Or maybe both. |
Ms. Kern is very smart and very accomplished. But frankly, not everybody cares. She was a winner of the 1998 Baywatch College Search, and they don't ask about your grade point average in that competition. (For the record, it was 4.0, first in her class.)
|If you saw her on "Baywatch," you know her qualifications. |
Photos courtesy of Jamie Kern
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