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Miss Missouri is Miss USA

Beauty queen from Florissant once wrestled greased pig
Wednesday, April 14, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:21 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

LOS ANGELES — A fast-food- loving beauty queen from Missouri who has two master’s degrees and once wrestled a greased pig in a mud pit was crowned Miss USA 2004.

Shandi Finnessey, 25, of Florissant won the title Monday night over 50 other contestants and will represent the United States in the Miss Universe pageant in Quito, Ecuador, on June 1.

Amanda Helen Pennekamp, Miss South Carolina, was first runner-up. Ashley Rachel Puleo, Miss North Carolina, was second runner-up, followed by Miss Oklahoma Lindsay Hill and Miss Tennessee Stephanie Culberson.

Finnessey, a 5-foot-11, blue-eyed blonde who said her favorite food is a Supersize extra-value meal from McDonald’s, jumped up and down and pumped her right arm while steadying the crown with her left hand after it was pinned on by outgoing titleholder Susie Castillo.

She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees in psychology and counseling from Lindenwood University, and she would like to use her counseling degree in a television job. She has published a children’s book.

Finnessey listed bungee jumping and wrestling a greased pig in a mud pit as the craziest things she has ever done.

The contestants were trimmed to 15, then 10 and finally five finalists, who were asked questions written by their fellow contestants.

Finnessey was asked whether experience or education serves a person better in life.

“Definitely experience because you get your knowledge through experience,” she said. “Each moment that comes by, I think that teaches you more knowledge than anything you could possibly read in a book.”

The winner’s prize package includes a New York City apartment for a year, extensive travel opportunities, a yearlong salary and a two-year scholarship worth $45,000 to The School for Film and Television in New York.

The pageant is co-owned by NBC and Donald Trump, who opened the telecast by telling Castillo, “You’re fired,” his ubiquitous phrase from the network’s hit show “The Apprentice.”

Nancy O’Dell and Billy Bush of “Access Hollywood” co-hosted the pageant at the Kodak Theatre. The event began in 1952 in Long Beach, Calif., as a promotion for a swimsuit manufacturer.

The judges were race car driver Jeff Gordon, Los Angeles Lakers owner Jerry Buss, former NBA player John Salley, Mekhi Phifer of “ER,” Rocco DiSpirito of “The Restaurant” and fashion designer Jill Stuart.


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