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Weekly Q&A: Shanna Moakler puts her brains and beauty behind Miss Nevada USA

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Beauty queen: From acting in films and TV to founding her Smoak cosmetics line, Shanna Moakler says pageant experience played a role.
Fadil Berisha

Competitive roller skater. Playboy centerfold. Entrepreneur. Old flame of punk rockers and boxing royalty. That chick from Entourage with the thing for bunny suits. Shanna Moakler is all of this and more, but her fame is rooted in her reign as Miss USA 1995. The 36-year-old actress and mother of three is now an executive in the pageant world, helping California win Miss USA last year and end the state’s almost two-decade dry spell. Now creative director for Miss Nevada USA, she and her “girls” are up against a winless record for the national crown. With a little butt glue and lots of heart, Moakler says it’s a lock.

You got into pageants through modeling and won Miss Rhode Island Teen USA at 16. As stepping-stones go, how does the Miss USA system differ from Miss America?

Miss America is a scholarship pageant, and they actually define themselves as a talent pageant. ... Miss USA broke away from Miss America back in the ’50s to specifically just be a beauty pageant. The criteria that we go off of are beauty of the face and figure, confidence, poise and personality. ... The Miss USA girls are a little more entertainment based, girls who want to be hosts or models or actresses or motivational speakers. ... So it really depends on who you are as a young woman and what your personal goals are.

In any pageant, choking is understandable given the pressure, but the final round of Miss Teen USA 2007 produced a serious YouTube gem.

It’s so funny, because we do have doctors; we have lawyers; we have NASA rocket scientists. We really do have some incredible women who compete, but of course the media loves to jump on the “such as, Iraq, maps” stuff. That’s just the nature of the beast.

Did you ever royally choke?

I almost did at Miss USA. I was asked about Hillary Clinton, and instead of just answering the question … I gave my opinion and then I wanted to talk about her politics. I almost blanked. I was like, “I wish she would just (extremely long pause) think a little bit more about her politics.” ... Sometimes you just break. Those nerves are intense.

Calendar

Miss Nevada USA
January 29, 7 p.m.
$40-$105
The Pearl, 942-7777

Does the pressure of competing in pageants give you an edge in the professional sector?

Whenever you’re put on the stage in front of a live audience like that there just isn’t better training in the world. ... When you get the crown that’s a perk. Then you take that title and go someplace with it.

Your crown propelled you into acting, and the credits on your IMDb page are extensive for both television and film. You’re a natural comedienne, which is hard when you also happen to be gorgeous.

One of the things they always say in Hollywood is pretty girls can’t be funny. And it used to infuriate me. Just getting the opportunity was such a struggle all the time. Halle Berry had to play a crackhead to be taken seriously.

Between auditions and talks for more reality shows, you found time to be a pageant executive. Nevada has never won Miss USA and rarely cracks the top 10. So what’s your strategy, and why, with so many knockouts here, do we keep losing?

With Las Vegas being so bright lights-big city, I’m not sure that women really have a clear understanding of what pageantry is and what it can do for you. ... I really started attacking the social media and rebuilding the brand virally—redoing the websites, doing expos, getting the girls excited, having [the event] at the Palms and having it Ustreamed, bringing in celebrities and great sponsors and huge prize packages. The girls will start to realize, “Wait a minute; this is something that might be really good for me.”

What do you think of the contestants up for Miss Nevada USA next week?

We have some incredibly beautiful women, and I think we’re going to have two of the best top fives in the whole country this year. ... Whoever wins this title, I’m going to invest all of my connections over the past 20 years in Hollywood, sit down with her and figure out what she wants to do and make her a star.

You’ve called in some favors for the production, including choreography by your buddy Tony Dovolani from Dancing With the Stars. Is the live pageant pretty exciting?

It’s so much better live and in person because you really feel the energy of all the people. People have their signs and their favorites and bells and whistles. They really get into it for their contestant. It’s just a whole other experience. It’s just crazy in the room.

Competitors use some interesting tricks, like butt glue.

The butt glue has to go on, because you don’t want [the swimsuit] riding up; the Vaseline does help because you’re smiling and smiling and your lip will literally start to quiver. Nowadays there’s the taping of the boobs. The tanning has become pretty intense with these young ladies. The hair extensions have become very serious. … But I hate it when pageant girls get a bad rap, because they really are intelligent women. They’re ambitious women; they’re driven; they’re educated. They’re just trying to separate themselves from the pack, trying to get that opportunity that not everyone gets everyday.

Like rubbing shoulders with Donald Trump. About his hair ...

His hair is awesome.

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