WHERE ARE THEY NOW: The 21 Most Influential Former Beauty Queens

Maria Gabriela IslerAssociated Press/Ariana CubillosMaria Gabriela Isler won Miss Universe earlier this month.

Last month, Maria Gabriela Isler of Venezuela was
crowned Miss Universe— the 62nd woman to be crowned with the prestigious title since the competition was founded in 1952.

And while the Miss Universe crown represents one of the most honorable of all beauty titles, hundreds of pageants take place all over the world each year.

Throughout the past 60 years of Miss Universe and Miss USA competitions, former beauty queens have gone on to have successful careers — journalists such as Oprah Winfrey and Diane Sawyer, Oscar winners like Halle Berry, many leaders in philanthropy, and more.

Check out the former beauty queens who are doing their parts to change the world.

Miss Kansas Theresa Vail looked like the average contestant when she competed in Miss America this year.

But this army sergeant was the first contestant to ever expose her tattoos.

Miss Kansas Theresa Vail was only the second contestant in the military to ever compete in Miss America, and altough she didn't win, she placed in the top 10.

She's also an expert M16 marksman, a bow hunter, a skydiver, a boxer and a mechanic, according to People.

Vail also became the first contestant to showcase her tattoos during this year's competition.

'Why am I choosing to bear my tattoos?' Vail says. 'My whole platform is empowering women to overcome stereotypes and break barriers. What a hypocrite I would be if I covered my ink. How can I tell other women to be fearless and true to themselves if I can't do the same? I am who I am, tattoos and all.'

Lauren Nelson won the Miss America crown in 2007 and used her title for a good cause ...

... she has worked alongside New York cops to promote Internet safety.

Over the past six years, Nelson has traveled throughout the country raising awareness for Internet safety and promoting a nationwide platform, Be NetSmart.

In 2007, Nelson and John Walsh of 'America's Most Wanted' teamed up with New York police in a sting targeting sexual predators. Nelson posed as a young teen in an online chat room, helping cops arrest a handful of men.

Nelson now lives in Oklahoma, where she co-anchors 'News 9 at Four' on Oklahoma's News 9 and works for various charitable organisations and youth retreats.

After being the first black woman to win Miss Florida in 2003, a surprised Ericka Dunlap went on to win Miss America in 2004 ...

... now she's a reinvention strategist and motivational speaker who competed on 'The Amazing Race.'

As a public relations specialist, Dunlap created Crown Jewel Consulting, and the charity, The Crown Jewel Foundation, which promotes social development skills and image awareness in young girls.

She has acted as a reinvention strategist and motivational speaker, delivering over 100 keynote addresses.

In 2009, Dunlap and her husband Brian participated on 15th season of 'The Amazing Race,' placing third overall.

Shandi Finnessey took home the Miss USA crown in 2004 ...

... since then, she has authored children's books and competed on 'Dancing With The Stars.'

While travelling for her Miss USA title, Finnessey advocated for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and Ovarian Cancer Research, and joined forces with the USO to visit military troops and bases.

In 2002, Finnessey authored an award-winning children's book 'The Furrtails' about a bunny with a disability and is working on a second book.

In 2007, the former pageant queen competed on the fourth season of 'Dancing with the Stars' but was the second celebrity voted off the show.

Earlier this year, Finnessey appeared on NBC reality show 'Ready For Love' and was chosen as the winner by bachelor Ernesto Arguello, but the relationship ended briefly after the show.

This summer, Finnessey and former beauty queens posed naked for animal rights organisation, PETA.

Finnessey, along with fellow former beauty queen Susie Castillo, now runs Pageantology 101, a group empowering young women in the pageant industry to win in life through their unique workshop.

After being crowned Miss Florida, Nicole Johnson took home the Miss America crown in 1999 ...

... She is now a diabetes advocate, having been diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1993.

Since her Miss America victory, Johnson has worked as a journalist (winning a Telly award in 2008) and an international consultant and advocate for diabetes issues, helping to raise over $US26 million for diabetes research.

Johnson, who has diabetes, has promoted awareness through numerous articles, published in the likes of USA Today and Diabetic Cooking Magazine, and six books.

As the executive director of the University of South Florida's Bringing Science Home project, Johnson investigates the connection between chronic disease and family dynamics.

She has served on numerous health advisory boards in Florida, including the Tampa Bay chapter of the American Diabetes Associations.

Eva Longoria won the title of Miss Corpus Christi, USA in 1998 ...

... Longoria went on to be nominated for a Golden Globe for her role on ABC's 'Desperate Housewives' and was named 'Philanthropist of the Year.'

Eva Longoria landed her first TV job just a year after the pageant, hosting a weekend destination segment on 'L.A. In A Day' and guest starring on 'Beverly Hills, 90210.'

She had her big break on CBS' 'The Young and the Restless,' playing Isabella Braña from 2001 to 2003, at which time she was cast as Gabrielle Solis in ABC's 'Desperate Housewives.' The eight-year role earned her a Golden Globe nomination.

Aside from an acting career, and several business ventures, including a restaurant in Hollywood, she is heavily involved in philanthropy work.

In 2006 she founded Eva's Heroes, a charity that helps developmentally disabled children, and she executive produced Shine Global Inc.'s documentary 'The Harvest,' which focused on child migrant farm workers.

Longoria has also been involved with St. Jude Children's Hospital and National Council of La Raza, the latter of which drove her to further her education in Chicano studies.

'Because of my involvement with the NCLR and my charity work, I really wanted a better, more authentic understanding of what my community has gone through so I can help create change,' Longoria said.

The Hollywood Reporter named her 'Philanthropist of the Year' in 2009.

Before becoming a TV star, Vanessa Minnillo was named Miss Teen USA in 1998 ...

... Minnillo made a name for herself as a host of MTV's 'Total Request Live' and currently stars on Seth MacFarlane's Fox Comedy 'Dads.'

Serving as a host of 'TRL' from 2003 to 2007, Minnillo interviewed a range of celebs -- from Diddy to Lindsay Lohan, and even her future husband Nick Lachey.

Minnillo has also acted as a correspondent for 'Entertainment Tonight,' ABC's 'Wipeout,' and has appeared in several television series, including '30 Rock,' and 'Hawaii Five-0.'

She currently stars as Camilla on Seth McFarlane's 'Dads' and became a mum in 2012.

After Shawnae Jebbia took home the Miss USA title in 1998 ...

... she became a spokesperson for a hearing aid company after suffering hearing loss at age 27.

Though Jebbia had a brief stint as a television personality following her 1998 win, Meniere was left with hearing loss at the age of 27.

She began using a Siemens Pure 700 hearing aid, eventually travelling the world as the company's spokesperson.

Now 42, Jebbia is a licensed aesthetician and has been working her way toward a nursing degree.

Following Katherine Shindle's victory at Miss America 1998 ...

... the beauty queen went on to become a Broadway star and AIDS activist.

With her Miss America crown, Shindle became an AIDS activist, giving lectures and helping to raise millions of dollars for HIV/AIDS awareness, even chairing a session at the World Health Organisation in Switzerland.

As a fundraiser for the National AIDS Fund, Shindle teamed up with a Chicago jazz ensemble to release a Christmas CD, 'Christmases to Come.'

Shindle went on to have a successful career on Broadway, playing the Madhatter in 'Wonderland: Alice's New Musical Adventure' and Vivienne Kensington in 'Legally Blonde: The Musical.'

Erika Harold won Miss America 2003 ...

... and last year, she made a bid for Congress.

Following her pageant win in 2003, the former Miss America and Harvard Law School graduate ran for national office, seeking to represent the 13th District of Illinois in the House of Representatives.

Harold, a civil litigation attorney out of Chicago, replaced Rep. Tim Johnson as the Republican candidate and announced that her main focus if elected would be the national debt.

She told ABC News, 'Hopefully, it's a thing that gets someone's attention, but then they will see that I graduated from Harvard Law School … and in a wide variety of ways am qualified to be in Congress.'

Though Harold didn't get the Republican Party nod, she did help pave the way for other beauty queens to get involved in politics.

Before taking Hollywood by storm, Halle Berry represented Ohio in the 1986 Miss USA pageant ...

... she became the first black woman to win an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role in 'Monster's Ball.'

Berry followed up the Miss USA competition with Miss World. Though she didn't win, she certainly made up for it.

After trying out modelling in Chicago, she moved to New York City to pursue an acting career.

Berry's breakout roles included a small part in 'Jungle Fever' and a supporting role in 'Strictly Business,' but it was her larger roles in 'The Flintstones' and the 'X-Men' film franchise that earned her acclaim in the industry.

In 2002, Berry became the first African-American to win the Academy Award for Best Actress for her lead role in 'Monster's Ball.'

After just becoming a mum for the second time, Berry's set to hit the big screen again in next year's 'X-Men: Days of Future Past.'

Vanessa Williams was the first African-American to win Miss America when she took home the crown in 1984 ...

... she went on to have a successful music and film career.

Though Williams resigned from her Miss America title following a nude photos scandal, she found success in the music and film industries.

She released her debut album 'The Right Stuff' in 1988, and her second album 'The Comfort Zone' shortly after -- both of which had chart-topping success.

Williams broadened her career into acting, performing in Broadway productions and appearing on television shows and movies.

One of her more recent roles, as Wilhelmina Slater on 'Ugly Betty,' won her three supporting actress Emmy nominations.

After Sarah Palin won the Miss Wasilla beauty pageant contest in Wasilla, Alaska in 1984 ...

... she became the city's mayor in what would be just the start of her political career.

When Palin was elected governor of Alaska in 2006, she became the first woman and the youngest person to hold the position.

Palin continued to break down boundaries when she became the first Republican woman nominated for the vice presidency in 2008.

Though she and running mate, presidential candidate Senator John McCain, lost the race, Palin continued to be active in politics.

She finished her term in 2009, published a best-selling book, 'Going Rogue: An American Life,' and this past summer, even mentioned a potential 2014 bid for Senate.

Michelle Pfeiffer won Miss Orange County in 1978 and participated in the Miss California pageant ...

... she began acting a year after the pageant and has been nominated for three Academy Awards.

Pfeiffer made her film debut in 'The Hollywood Knights' but it wasn't until 1983's 'Scarface' that she truly made a name for herself in the industry.

Since then, Pfeiffer has appeared in a range of films, most notably, 'Hairspray,' 'What Lies Beneath,' and 'I Am Sam.'

Pfeiffer starred in this year's film, 'The Family,' alongside Robert DeNiro and Tommy Lee Jones, and has several other films in the works.

Vanna White participated in the 1978 Miss Georgia Universe pageant ...

... she went on to become one of the most longstanding TV personalities.

Though she didn't walk away with a win at the pageant, White became an iconic television personality thanks to her role as the hostess of 'Wheel of Fortune.'

White and Pat Sajak have hosted the game show since 1982, and though the former beauty queen has had several cameos in movies and television shows, her claim to fame continues to be her nightly 'Wheel of Fortune' appearance.

White even got her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

After Deborah Norville was crowned Georgia Junior Miss America in 1976 ...

... she went on to report for and anchor numerous news programs.

After serving as an anchor for NBC in Atlanta and Chicago, Norville became a co-host alongside Katie Couric on 'Today' -- a position she held for two years.

In the 1993, Norville joined CBS, acting as a correspondent and eventually as an anchor for 'CBS Evening News' and '48 Hours.' When Bill O'Reilly left 'Inside Edition' in 1995, Norville signed onto the job, where she continues to cover a range of national and international stories.

Norville also hosts an online talk show, 'New Way RA,' to raise awareness about rheumatoid arthritis -- a condition her mother suffered from.

She has been involved in numerous charities, including Mother's March of Dimes, Rita Hayworth Alzheimer's Gala, and the Girl Scout Council of Greater New York.

Oprah Winfrey's first time in the limelight was at the Miss Black Tennessee pageant in 1972 ...

... Oprah is now a one-name media giant and American icon.

Winfrey is best known for her syndicated talk show, 'The Oprah Winfrey Show,' which brought the host face to face with celebrities, politicians, and average joes with anything but average stories.

Winfrey's show became the highest-rated program in history, and during its 25-season run from 1986 to 2011, 'The Oprah Winfrey Show' racked up 47 Daytime Emmy Awards and aired in 144 countries.

With an almost $US3 billion net worth, Winfrey is the wealthiest African-American in the United States, according to Forbes.

As the chairwoman and CEO of Harpo Productions (which produces 'Dr. Phil' and 'Rachael Ray') and the Oprah Winfrey Network, Winfrey has branched into film and Broadway, producing and acting in films like 'The Colour Purple' and this year's 'The Butler.'

Winfrey has also been involved in extensive philanthropy work -- shelling out $400 million to charitable causes as of 2012.

In 1998, she created The Angel Network, which supported charities and allocated grants to international nonprofit organisations. She also set up the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa.

Winfrey was recently presented with a Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama.

Kathie Lee Gifford represented Maryland in America's Junior Miss Pageant in 1970 ...

... and now she hosts the fourth hour of the 'Today' show.

Gifford rose to fame when she teamed up with Regis Philbin to host 'Live! with Regis & Kathie Lee' from 1985 to 2000.

In 2008, Gifford began co-hosting the fourth-hour segment of 'Today' with Hoda Kotb.

Kathie Lee and her husband, Frank, are active in charities raising money to help New York City shelters and The Association to Benefit Children.

In 1963, high schooler Diane Sawyer won America's Junior Miss pageant ...

... and 50 years later, Sawyer is a prominent anchor for 'ABC World News.'

After attending Wellesley College, Sawyer started her career working for the government, becoming a staff assistant to President Richard Nixon and working in the White House's press office.

In 1978, Sawyer joined CBS News as a general assignment reporter, eventually taking a job at '60 Minutes' as the news magazine's first female correspondent.

In 1989, Sawyer made the move to ABC, anchoring 'Primetime Live,' 'Good Morning America,' '20/20,' and as of 2009, 'ABC World News.'

Terry Lynn Huntingdon became California's first representative to win Miss USA in 1959, but later ...

... she went on to have a career in acting and politics.

After winning the crown 54 years ago, Huntingdon started a brief career in television and film, appearing on a comedy show 'You Bet Your Life' and in the feature flick, 'The Three Stooges Meet Hercules.'

She later moved to Washington D.C., becoming a freelance photographer for the federal government and working as a scheduler for Senator Gary Hart's presidential campaign.

It was during her time in government that she met and married United States Senator, Joseph Tydings.

After Marian McKnight Conway became Miss America in 1957...

... she and her husband opened a sustainable winery in California.

After the pageant, McKnight Conway appeared on network television shows, in commercials, and served as a spokesperson for companies like Revlon and Philco.

Along with her involvement in other charities, she helped found the Amie Karen Cancer Center for Children at Cedar-Sinai in California.

McKnight Conway and her husband Gary Carmody Conway own a vineyard and winery, Carmody McKnight Estate Wines, on the Central Coast of California. As a sustainable winery with rare soil, the vineyard and its wines have won numerous recognitions.

In 1955, Lee Meriwether Borden became Miss America, but she took on a completely different role later on ...

... the beauty queen played Catwoman in the original 'Batman.'

Since being crowned Miss America, Meriwether Borden has starred in numerous television shows, films, and theatre productions, one of her first gigs being a women's editor on 'The Today Show.'

Most notably, she played Betty in CBS' 'Barnaby Jones,' Andy Griffith's wife in 'Angel In My Pocket,' and Catwoman in 'Batman.'

She met husband and playwright Marshall Borden through her work in theatre, which according to Meriwether Borden's website, is her first love.

Meriwether Borden continues to be active in humanitarian causes, serving as a chairman of AbilityFirst. In the past she has served as the national education chairman of the American Cancer Society, and the Los Angeles chairman for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Now that you've seen what beauty queens have accomplished...

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