Miss Venezuela was crowned the new Miss Universe this past Saturday night. How fitting that just two days before, I had the opportunity to interview Brook Lee-Miss Universe 1997 about her pageant experiences.
(Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)
When watching your old home
movies that were transferred by YesVideo, what was your favorite pageant memory? Let’s be honest. It’s been a really long time. I had forgotten alot of it. I was a communications major so I had a camera and I documented alot of my year. I don’t really remember what I did document so I was surprised at some of the stuff I saw. The Brook of today would have not had the energy to video girls waiting in line to eat. (laughs) It was really fun to be the Penny Marshall of the Miss Universe world. I honestly don’t remember alot of those moments. Seeing the girls again was quite emotional.We are all different people now. It’s like going into a time machine.
What inspired your desire
to compete in the Miss USA Pageant System? It was because I was a spectacular loser at the Miss America system. I had run for Miss Hawaii America 4 years in a row and lost. Miss Hawaii America was the biggest thing in the Island when I competed. Everyone just wanted to be Miss Hawaii….not necessarily Miss America….I was just so awful at it. I aged out and decided to run for Miss Hawaii USA. I really didn’t think I was going to win.
What is one life lesson you
took from your reign as Miss Universe? Honestly, being from Hawaii I led a sheltered life and had never left the Island. 13 countries in 12 months was overwhelming. I wasn’t a world traveler. I didn’t even know how to do a transfer at Chicago O’Hare. But I learned by going everywhere in the world, that everyone is the same. I’ve cut a ribbon in Hardees in the mid west and then flown to meet the President of Paraguay. Everyone laughs. Everyone is the same. No matter the language, if you trip on your gown on the Palace stairs…everyone will laugh. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you are from, we are all similar people.
I personally feel, pageants
can be a positive pathway for great success for women. It’s a business and you
are building your brand while holding a title all while making a difference
within your community. What would you
say to those who view pageants in a negative light? It’s interesting, in the 90s pageants weren’t popular. There wasn’t twitter and other ways to scrutinize each and every move. I’ve seen girls go thru the pageant and not have the same success I did. I went into pageants to pay my way thru college. I graduated with a degree-debt free. I got alot out of it. Only one girl wins. At the end of the day, when you make a committment to better yourself, you leave the experience a better person. You went into it to better yourself whether you win or not. What you get out of it is the point. One girl gets the crown for a year and then she’s back where you are. It’s about the experience.
What’s your view on
children competing in pageants? I don’t think it’s a problem if it’s what the child wants to do. I think anything is a problem if they don’t want to do it…..actors, sports, etc. It’s about what the child wants. My son was born to me. He didn’t have a say in that. He was pulled into being kid of Miss Universe. He has to get used to the limelight. Sometimes he likes it. Sometimes he doesn’t. He didn’t choose this. If he wants to hide under the table, he can hide under the table. I had friends who didn’t do pageants but their kids are good at it. It’s all about the individual.
Miss Universe is this
Saturday, the same day I personally will be competing in the Mrs. South
Carolina America Pageant. Having very little pageant experience, I am obviously
a bit overwhelmed, what is your best piece advice you can give me? You are ahead of the game if you don’t have alot of experience. South Carolina is like Venezuela of the United States. I was a model my whole life. My first pageant, I was asked about my thoughts and I didn’t have one. I got addicted to people wanting to hear what I had to say finally. I learned to figure out I had opinions. I wasn’t just a pretty girl and my opinions mattered.
during every interview I give….I always ask the same question….what is your
definition of beauty? It changes. I admire as a 42 year old how much shinier I was during that perfect storm of a year-1997. When I look at the footage of myself in that whirlwind, I liked myself. I had a good year but I was a better Miss Universe in 1998 when I gave up the title because I had grown. Beauty comes from being able to take what you get out of the world and turning around and giving it back to the world. I ran with some of the most beautiful in the world. Pretty comes and goes.It’s like a bloodsport for some. It’s crazy. All that beauty says something but if you don’t have it on the inside then what does it mean.
Anything else you’d like to share? Have a great time at your pageant. If you can go up there and make judges feel like they are at a party and you are the host then you are in. They just want to give someone a title. Your job is to make it easy as possible. They just want to say “That’s the girl I like.” and then put a shiny crown on her. I will be googling on Saturday to see how you do!
I truly enjoyed chatting with Brook. She has to be one of my favorite people I’ve ever interviewed. Thank you to YesVideo for arranging this!