Miss USA Alyssa Campanella clinches the title after answering my final question about legalizing marijuana. As a preliminary judge whose strong point is interviewing, I am asked to submit questions for the telecast.
I am thrilled to see her win, and elated my question is used. It turns out that the question has been tossed around for years behind the scenes, I’m told, but it was pushed to be used again.
“Because I’m from California and there’s the whole marijuana debate, I went ‘Okay, this is actually very appropriate to be asking Miss California,’” she says at Planet Hollywood Resort and Casino in Las Vegas post-pageant. “I loved the final questions, because it really makes you think on your feet. I love how people ask beauty queens these types of questions because we’re human, too, we have opinions, and I like that they want our voices to be heard.”
For the 21-year-old model, the reality element of this year’s Miss USA Pageant is nerve-wracking.
“My heart raced a lot more than it did when I competed at Miss Teen USA,” she says. “I actually said to [Miss] Maryland, who was behind me in the top 8, we were backstage in the wings and there were two trash cans, so I said ‘thank God they are here, because I’m probably going to need one.’”
Although her life has changed now that she’s Miss USA, Alyssa isn’t planning to trade up to a celebrity in the boyfriend department.
“Well, I’m not single,” she tells me with a laugh. “I don’t know that I would pick any celebrity right now that I would want to date.”
Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous icon Robin Leach jumps in to ask about her boyfriend. (Wow!)
“All I’m going to say is he supports me in everything I do. He was crying. He’s really proud of me, and I couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Still, she would love to meet a certain reality star.
“I would love to meet Buddy Valastro of Cake Boss because I love to bake cakes, and he’s an Italian. He acts like I do in the kitchen, so we would mesh well.”
In fact, now that she’s won, the Sherman Oaks dweller says, “All I can say is ‘we’re going to Miss Universe!’ And I’d like some chocolate cake please.”
Still, it’s not all reality for the redheaded beauty. She prefers Star Wars to Star Trek.
“My father introduced me to Star Wars when I was six, and ever since then, I’ve always been into Star Wars more than Star Trek. I love Yoda, I love Darth Vader, I love Padma Amidala’s hair.”
And, her passion for history shines through when asked about her favorite character.
“It would have to be Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland in the 1500s. I’m reading about her, and what I find fascinating about her is she was actually innocent in her childhood and she made mistakes later on in her adulthood, which led to her downfall.”
She adds, “I hope somebody creates a TV show about her someday. [coughs] Just sayin.’”
Lucky Alyssa owes her pageant win to her family.
“My mom got a letter in the mail one day, and said ‘hey, why don’t you try this?’ I really had a tough time in high school, and she thought it would be a great way for me to meet other girls throughout the state. I was 15 when I first competed, so it’s mom’s fault.”
And she clinched the title with a little fashion help from her state director, Shanna Moakler, Miss USA 1995.
“My director said ‘you really should wear green when you compete in Miss USA. I was like ‘no, I’ll look like a Christmas tree.’ Then, I put it on, and she cried. I took that as a sign. It’s different, I knew it was going to stand out and I felt comfortable walking in it. I wore it because I felt comfortable in it.”
Of course, Shanna knew it was destiny.
“When she first tried out for Miss Teen USA in 2007, I knew she was going to come back for Miss USA.”
For Alyssa, all the bumps in the road — including losing her apartment in NYC to pursue modeling opportunities in L.A. — have been well worth it.
“Well, the downs happened for a reason,” she reasons. “The path that I’m on now is the path that was meant for me. Moving to California was the best decision I ever made. Not only because it helped me become Miss USA, but also because my career at the time blossomed there.”
She adds, “As far as my car goes, I think my dad is going to be driving it back to L.A., although I don’t know what’s going to happen because they’ve got alternate side of the street parking problems, so I guess I’ve got to find a garage or something.”