“If you ever dreamed of taking part in a beauty pageant, get ready for the ride of a lifetime.”
Lu Parker, Miss USA 1994
An extraordinary and intelligent woman, the perfect example that beauty and intelligence, do go hand in hand. Funny, humble, dedicated and very professional, she is Lu Parker, Miss USA 1994, who happily agreed to grant us an unforgettable interview here at “El anecdotario”.
The only woman among three brothers, "a certified tomboy", in her own words, born in South Carolina, Lu Parker obtained her Bachelor of Arts in English at the College of Charleston and furthermore a Master's Degree in Education from the prestigious military academy “The Citadel”.
In 1994 the College of Charleston named her distinguished “alumni” and State Governor, Carrol Campbell granted her the “Palmetto Award”, the most prestigious honor granted by the State of South Carolina.
Fourteen years have passed and Lu Parker is today an accomplished journalist, writer and actress. Furthermore, the second edition of her book, “Catching the Crown” has just been released again, which demonstrates that against all odds, beauty pageants, still thrive and will keep on going for a long time to come.
Lu Parker, an example of discipline, dedication, devotion and of course, beauty.
Come along and discover the tidbits and revelations that this fantastic beauty queen shared with us.
1.- Lu, lets start from the very beginning…Reading the opening statements from your book, “Catching the Crown”, you quote yourself saying that if “somebody would have asked you years back to participate in a beauty pageant, you would have answered a firm: “ NO!”...you were a girl who loved motorcycles, horses, a high school teacher with a Master's degree in Education...phew..!!! What changed your mind, what happened??!!!, or who “pushed you” to enter a beauty pageant?
I grew up as a certified tomboy. With two step-brothers, and one brother, I never visualized myself on stage, in a dress. The first big pageant I competed in was my high school pageant. I was a freshman, and was crowned the winner. It was a big deal for me. I guess you can say I got the bug then. I was 15 years old.
Lu Parker is the new Miss South Carolina
2.- How was your experience in the local, Miss South Carolina Pageant, do you recall heavy competition, how many contestants competed then, any anecdotes you would like to share?
The experience was excellent. I had trained for nearly 4 months, so I was definitely focused when the time came to compete. I believe nearly 40 girls competed. Yes, there was some healthy competition. I don't remember the details. I do remember staying focused on what I had to offer, and not the competition.
I share that type of mentality in my book. It's important to remember that when you compete in a pageant, there will always be pretty, successful, and talented teens/women around you. Focusing on their strengths will only hinder your ability to completely shine.
3.-After the pageant (local) of course, you go on to the 1994 Miss USA in South Padre Island, Tx. One of the most competitive and respected pageants worldwide and in your case, I have to say, one of the most competitive pageants of that decade.
What was your initial reaction, how did you feel being surrounded by 50 talented women competing for the crown?
Again, it was overwhelming at times. Every contestant had successfully proven that she was able to win a state level pageant. The quality of women was extraordinary, and remember we are there competing, and rehearsing for nearly 2 weeks.
Even though I knew I had a lot to offer, it was difficult to stay focused at times.The experience was incredible. I loved Texas and the organizers behind the pageant.
4.-Can you share any anecdotes, did you ever feel as the front-runner, where you prepared to loose as well…?
As snotty as it may sound, I had to go to the pageant believing that I was the winner. It's all in the mind really. If you doubt it, the judges will too. But it's a fine line between having confidence, and being stuck-up. There were at least five contestants who could have easily walked away with the title.
I truly believe it is a combination between hard work, opportunity, and fate. My life changed, and took a 360 degree turn that night in 1994. Every day I am grateful that I had to courage to compete.
Semifinalists during the 1994 Miss USA pageant
5.-What was the most difficult moment you experienced during the course of the Miss USA Pageant?
The two weeks were pretty grueling with rehearsals, appearances, and competition. It's not easy work, but I was prepared for that. At the young age of 25, I don't think I was prepared for some of the mind games that were played at the pageant. Nothing big, or nasty happened, but you could say not everyone was completely warm to me.
It hurt my feelings at the time because I'm a people person at heart, but I realize now, it was a way for some of the contestants to compete or play mind-games. I was okay with it.
6.-Can you explain the feeling of holding hands with Miss Virginia right before the final decision? You competed neck to neck with Pat Southall for that title, did you have a feeling you had won?
Honestly, it is all sort of a blur. You dream about it, but when it's happening, it's hard to comprehend. It happened so quickly. We did hold hands, and I apparently whispered something in her ear prior to Bob Goen announcing me as Miss USA. I have no idea what I said. Weird right? I didn't cry once I was crowned, but during my walk on stage, I saw my brother in the audience. He was red-faced, standing up and cheering. I felt the tears then. It made it a reality.
Crowning moment; Lu Parker is the new Miss USA 1994 (courtesy www.youtube.com)
Note: if for any reason the video does not load, please click here
Puerto Rico's Dayanara Torres Miss Universe 1993 putting the Miss USA sash
Kenya Summer Moore Miss USA 1993 (finalist in Miss Universe 1993) crowning Lu Parker as the new Miss USA 1994
7.-Two months after, a bigger challenge arises: Miss Universe 1994 in Manila, and the last Miss Universe titleholder then from the USA was Shawn Wetherley from, where else?, South Carolina!!!. How did you prepare for that pageant, in only two months time?!?!?
At that point, I had been training for nearly 7 months. There wasn't much more that I needed to do differently. I just needed to stay on track. I also had to find the perfect dress, and wardrobe. The Miss Universe Pageant experience was even more intense than the Miss USA pageant. We were in a foreign country, with more competition, international languages, extreme heat, and for a longer period of time. (5 weeks total)
Having a blast during Miss Universe 1994 in Manila, Philippines
8.-Do you think the fact that Miss USA and Miss Universe share the same pageant format and ownership gave you an advantage over the rest of the girls?
Absolutely not! Once we left for the Philippines, I was just another contestant to the staff. They treat everyone the same.
9.-The previous year, Kenya Moore, Miss USA 1993 was yelled and booed in every presentation by the audience in Mexico City after the national delegate (Mexico) missed the top 10 by a few points during the 1993 Miss Universe Pageant. Were you afraid something similar could have happened to you in a pageant crazy country as the Philippines???
I never even thought about it.
10.-The National Costume, an astronaut!!! How did you, or who came up with that idea???
I wasn't the one who chose the costume. The staff at the Miss Universe organization did.
It was the 25th anniversary of man walking on the moon, so they thought it would be appropriate. I was proud of our country's accomplishments, so I agreed.
It wasn't quite as sexy as the other outfits! Ha Ha.