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Pageant News Bureau - Miss USA

Branson, Missouri
February 5, 1999

Michon Zink
Photo by
Benjamin Gibbs / PNB

Stepping lively

Michon Zink comes from Montana, which is pretty far north for most Americans. But some of her friends and fans are way down south. As a teenager, she spent a summer experiencing the winter in Wanganui, New Zealand. If she becomes Miss USA, or maybe Miss Universe, she would like to make a return trip.

Ms. Zink is a schoolteacher, but she also has a strong interest in journalism and drama. She is said to be a particularly good photographer, though she's not one to boast. Cheerleading is another of her favorite activities.

She is probably familiar to many Montanans for her years as one of the Cat Dancers.

They're the troupe of lightfooted lovelies who perform at the sporting events of Montana State University, her alma mater. "Our team is the Bobcats," she explains.

Dancing has been a big part of her life since she was a little girl, and it seems she never met a step she didn't like. "Tap, jazz, lyrical, ballet, all of it," she says. She is also an expert baton twirler, with half a lifetime of experience behind her.

Ms. Zink has a couple of nicknames that date from her childhood. One of them is "Bird," which is a bit of a family joke. But it was the other one that caught our attention. "It's Shonnie," she says, somewhat hesitantly. It hadn't occurred to her that the name sounds a lot like "Shawnae," but we made the connection immediately.

Amanda Carraway

Standing strong

Amanda Carraway lives in the other Manhattan, on the plains of Kansas. It's not the Big Apple, but she has pageant experience that many a big-city girl would envy. Even though she's just turning 21 (on Jan. 25), she is taking part in her second nationally televised pageant. She was Miss Kansas Teen USA 1996.

She's a junior at Kansas State University, home of the Wildcats. The school had an exciting but ultimately frustrating year in football in 1998, and Ms. Carraway felt some of it firsthand. Her boyfriend is Monty Beisel, a defensive end for the team.

Sports and pageantry have their highs and lows, but real life can be infinitely harder, and Mandy Carraway has experienced it as most young people never will. She was orphaned as a teenager, losing her parents and her only sister in an auto accident. She rebuilt her life, thanks to a loving pair of grandparents and a very brave heart.

She's working toward a career in public relations. But she's open to other things. "I'd like to break into acting, even be a movie star." It's a long way from Manhattan to Hollywood, but she's a young woman who can go the distance.

Photo courtesy of Amanda Carraway
Teri Bollinger - Miss Missouri USA

Angel of Mercy    

Teri Bollinger, Miss Missouri USA, is a familiar face to our readers. A few months ago, as a PNB cover girl, she gazed up languidly from a diving board. Now it's too cold for diving, but she still looks terrific in a swimsuit (she once had a swimming scholarship).

She grew up in a suburb of St. Louis. "I could see the Arch from my back yard." But her hometown, Dupo, was in Illinois, not Missouri, and her first major title was Miss Illinois Teen USA.

She was a real pageant novice back in 1990 when she won the Illinois title. "I didn't even know the Miss Teen USA Pageant lasted more than a weekend," she recalls.

For the past several years, she has been a full-time Missourian, living first in St. Louis and now in Kansas City. She's a nurse, working in the children's intensive care unit of a large hospital. She has seen the suffering and death of children, the agony of parents. And she has never gotten used to it.

"Child safety," she says, and the two simple words speak volumes.

Photo courtesy of Teri Bollinger
Jennifer Krafve
Photo by
Benjamin Gibbs / PNB

A queen with a class

If you're wondering about Jennifer Krafve's last name, you're not alone.

"We're not sure where it comes from," says Miss Massachusettss USA, but it has been in her family a few generations.

The family believes it's a shortened form of some Scandinavian name. She pronounces it to rhyme with "taffy," but she doesn't mind if people make it rhyme with "savvy." She likes to be called Jen.

This schoolteacher from Saugus gets high marks in pageants. She was Massachusetts National Teenager 1991 and was third runner-up at the national competition. She was Ms. Massachusetts American United States 1998, third runner-up at nationals. In between, she was first runner-up to Miss Massachusetts Teen USA 1993.

She's following in the footsteps of Shawnae Jebbia, who last year brought home the Miss USA title to Massachusetts. Like Ms. Jebbia, she's a fitness buff. She was an outstanding volleyball player in high school and college, and today she coaches a high school girls' team. She's also an excellent figure skater.

"Pageants can open doors to dreams," Ms. Krafve says, and her dream is being a broadcaster, an anchorwoman. But the woman she admires most among broadcasters is probably one of the few who never was in pageants. "I really like Rosie O'Donnell," she says.  

Ratna Kancherla crowns Melissa Quesada

Vivacious veteran

Melissa Quesada, Miss Florida USA, says one thing you may have heard about her was wrong: She's NOT the Melissa Quesada who was queen of the Puerto Rican Day parade in New York City.

"It wouldn't be fair to claim some other girl's glory," says the Florida beauty, who has no connection to New York and no roots in Puerto Rico. (The Hispanic name comes from her Cuban ancestors, but she's also Italian, Irish, Dutch, American Indian and "cracker.")

While she never won a title in New York, Ms. Quesada has won her share elsewhere, starting when she was 10. She has three major national teen titles to her credit. At 20, she won't be one of the older contestants at Miss USA, but few can match her in experience.

She's studying biology in college, planning to become an assistant to a plastic surgeon.

When she was 11, her face was ripped apart by a dog ("it was my fault"), and a surgeon helped put her smile back together. So she believes in this form of the healing arts.

Cosmetic surgery for beauty queens is fine with her, too, even though she's never tried it herself. "People should find something else to complain about," she says with a polite finality.

Is she afraid of dogs? Of course not. She has an adorable little Chinese pug.

And what exactly is a "cracker"? It's an old word for a rural Southerner. To some it may be an insult, but for those who wear it proudly, it means "just plain folks."

The "B" word

When you talk about Tammy Jansen, Miss Washington USA, it's hard to avoid some form of the word "beauty."

Not only is she a beauty queen, she's a beauty expert. Her official title is "aesthetician," which means it's her job to help make other women look beautiful. She's employed by a major cosmetics company, and she knows all about beauty treatments, from mascara to mud wraps.

Tammy Jansen - Miss Washington USATammy Jansen - Miss Washington USA

She's also a model who has worked extensively on the West Coast, where she's known for her bubbly personality and her beauty (see for yourself). She lives in suburban Seattle, an area known for its beauty (we're not making this up)

Luckily, Ms. Jansen is not obsessed with beauty, and she enjoyed telling us about something that's not beautiful at all, at least not to us.

"It's a sugar glider," she said of her exotic pet, "a bat-like marsupial."

For the non-zoologists among our readers, she explained that it looks like a chipmunk, but with "big beady eyes and a pouch like a kangaroo." It's a high-maintenance creature, Ms. Jansen admitted, but she likes it.

Ms. Jansen was trained by Susan Tomac of First Impressions, and we asked the teacher to say something about the student, the first thing that came to mind. "To begin with, she's beautiful," Ms. Tomac said. OK, so it's not just us.

Photos courtesy of  Tammy Jansen

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