The Ohio State-Michigan opposition is legendary, at one time ranked as the greatest sports rivalry in North America, and not an Ohioan grows up without being aware of the deep contention. Yet in a sheer act of boldness, the reigning Miss Ohio USA, 19-year-old Amanda Tempel, confesses in a two-way interview with Miss Michigan USA that she’s just not a huge football fan. We let it slide because the rivalry between Ohio and Michigan overlaps into the hockey arena—a sport that she does follow—in the form of the Columbus Blue Jackets versus the Detroit Red Wings. Though it hurts to know that Miss Ohio is not a die-hard Bucks fan, we appreciate her honesty, and you will find, as we have, that she is otherwise flawless—really. Her equally pleasant counterpart, Miss Michigan USA, 24-year-old Rima Fakih, though, can pinpoint to the day that the OSU vs. Michigan rivalry took hold of her: August 30, 2003, her first day of classes at the school up North.
Both Miss Ohio USA and Miss Michigan USA reveal that beauty is not skin deep and that pageantry is in no way a smooth, effortless hobby. It gets hectic and catty backstage at pageants, but by remaining down-to-earth, they’ve both been able to take the title in their home states—and Amanda did it in her first pageant ever. They are prepared also to break down some of the more notorious stereotypes: They eat! They wear sweatpants! They’re normal people! Pageant queens, they are; drama queens, they’re not. In April 2010, the friendly competitors will reunite in Las Vegas in the quest for the Miss USA crown.
In the following Q&A and photo shoot, the Misses are styled in scarlet and gray, and navy and gold threads courtesy of Saks Fifth Avenue. Though they have definitely accumulated ample interviewing practice throughout their pageant careers, we hoped to catch them with a few questions they weren’t prepared for—we couldn’t! These chicks can think on their feet. We were left asking ourselves one question, though: does it make a Buckeye fan a lesser person if they are a Miss Michigan USA supporter? A question for the ages, but we will briefly throw allegiances aside and certainly root for both gals in April.
Where did you grow up?
Miss Michigan: I grew up in New York City, New York.
Miss Ohio: I grew up in St. Bernard, Ohio.
Where did you go to college?
MI: I go to the University of Cincinnati right now, and I’m majoring in pre-business.
OH: I graduated from the University of Michigan, and I majored in economics.
How did you get involved with these pageants?
MI: I’d definitely say my mom was my biggest fan. She kind of got me involved in pageants for scholarship reasons and to build more confidence in myself.
OH: It’s always been a dream of mine to do pageants. I love being on stage. I love feeling the adrenaline of the whole experience. And so, when I did them when I was younger, I definitely wanted to get back into them after high school. So I did this pageant, and that’s how I got back into it.
Is the Michigan-Ohio rivalry in your blood?
OH: Not really. I don’t really follow football, per se. I follow hockey, so Columbus and Detroit, the Red Wings versus the Blue Jackets. I’m kind of more into that rivalry than OSU versus Michigan, so I can’t really say.
MI: For me, I think it was August 30, 2003, I stepped foot on the University of Michigan campus, and I heard the fight song the first day, and I was kind of making fun of a few people singing the fight song, and then I watched how everyone was cheering. Then I got to see how Ohio State fans were during the game, and then I just started going into it more and more. Yesterday, I was driving to Ohio, and people were beeping, and I was like, “wow, a lot of people are beeping.” They were literally beeping at me. Then I remembered my plates say, “Michigan alumni, Go blue.” I cut like two off that said, “Buccaneers,” in the back. But you know, you feel it when you’re around here.
In your own wardrobe, do you find yourself subconsciously or consciously avoiding your rival school’s colors?
MI: I love red, though.
OH: Yeah, no, not at all.
MI: Before game days, yes.
OH: I think guys are mostly into the whole rivalry—not so much the girls.
Which school hates the other most in terms of fans?
MI: I think Ohio State hates Michigan more.
OH: I would say OSU. They’re really into it.
MI: Yeah, because everyone warned me. They were like, “Hey, when you go down there, you know, just be careful,” Because they thought the game was here this year. But I realized that when some of the Ohio State fans go to Michigan, they’ll get some, but some of my friends are Ohio State fans, and they’ll get comments and stuff like that, but not like that.
What’s up with Detroit, anyway?
MI: You know, the economy is very, very, very—well, in a lot of trouble. And since my major is in economics, it’s kind of funny that Michigan happens to be one of the worst. They’re trying to improve a lot of things, especially when they got the mayor out of there, Kwame, who was kind of hurting the city rather than helping. I just think that Detroit has so much potential, and a lot of people don’t even know that we have some of the best casinos right in the city. So, I just think it maybe needs time, but it will get better.
If you only had a week to live, how would you spend it in your home state?
OH: Good question. I would probably go up to Cleveland. They have the island Put-in-Bay—and Kelleys Island. I went there when I was really little, and I remember they had the little golf carts and stuff to ride around in. So, I’d probably go up there, and then
just spend time with my family in St. Bernard and back in Cincinnati.
MI: That’s a good idea. I’d definitely want to stay in my hometown, Dearborn, where I live right now, and spend as much time as I can with my family, and sing the Michigan song one last time, go blue.
Recall the best day of your life.
MI: September 19, 2009. I was crowned miss Michigan. Go ahead.
OH: That would be a good one. You stole my answer. Mine would be my crowning, too. That was October 10.
Describe what it’s like backstage at a pageant.
MI: Man, it’s hectic. Very. A lot of stuff everywhere.
OH: Flying everywhere.
MI: Girls don’t know how to keep stuff in certain places.
OH: Your feet are throbbing. You’re rushing, throwing off clothing, trying to put on more makeup, spray your hair—and your heart is pounding the entire time, like “oh my gosh, I don’t want to go back out there.”
MI: Or, you’ll hear the funniest things like: “My boob fell off,” and “Can you put butt spray on me?”
OH: “Do you have butt glue? Can someone please put some butt glue on me?”
MI: “Can someone please unbuckle my bra?”
What’s “butt glue?”
OH: It’s so your bathing suit doesn’t ride up on your butt and give you a wedgie.
What was your first job?
MI: Chuck E. Cheese! I actually volunteered to be Chuck E. because I thought I loved kids, and it wasn’t the best experience.
OH: I was actually an umpire for tee ball in St. Bernard for younger kids. So, I thought that was a cool job, and it was only twice a week, and I would get paid right on the spot after it was done, so I was like, “Ooh, money in my pocket!”
What is your biggest vice?
MI: French fries.
OH: Mine would be ice cream.
Who was your first celebrity crush on?
MI: Josh Hartnett.
OH: Josh Hartnett?
MI: I loved him in Pearl Harbor.
OH: That was a good movie.
MI: He’s so cute, oh man.
OH: Currently, I can’t think past, but currently Robert Pattinson. I don’t know if you know Twilight, but he looks like a God in that. Oh my gosh, he’s gorgeous.
What are three things you consider must-haves for all pageant competitors?
OH: Hair product. What else? A great pair of shoes. A great, comfortable pair of shoes. If you don’t have that, I don’t know what to tell you because you’re going to be in rehearsal for six hours.
MI: Make-up, hair and comfortable heels.
What about a bit of Vaseline on the teeth?
OH: No, I smile naturally. Whenever I talk, I just smile. So, there’s no need for it.
MI: Yeah, people will actually go to me, “What are you smiling about?”
OH: And it’s like, “I’m a naturally happy person!”
What is the biggest stereotype about pageant participants?
OH: I have a bunch of them! That they’re fake, that they’re catty, that they think of themselves so highly. That the whole thing is degrading to women. I think those four are big and not true at all.
MI: For me, it’s one thing. I realize in the pageant I did, because it’s the most recent one, that a lot of girls don’t want to help other girls. Like, when you help each other, you do a lot more. You know, you go a lot further. I know I was helping a few girls put makeup on, and a lot of girls were telling me to not do that. Why? I’m not trying to win Miss Congeniality here, but the girl literally came up to me and asked me. It’s not like I’m like, “Hey, let me do your make-up,” but just help them—it’s OK!
Have you ever witnessed a real fight backstage?
OH: Not an actual fight. No, there’s no fighting. Maybe like…
OH: Yeah, maybe some arguments.
MI: No physical fighting because I think they’d get kicked out.
OH: Oh yeah, definitely.
MI: But we have seen arguments. “That’s my eye shadow, why are you using my mirror? Go in the other bathroom.” See, they don’t want to help each other!
How often should a contestant be allowed to say the word “like” before being disqualified?
MI: Maybe twice.
OH: Yeah, I would say three times at the most.
MI: Or “um.”
OH: I mean, if they keep saying, “like,” or “um…”
MI: “Like, um…”
OH: …But if they’re saying, “such as, like,” that’s different, but three is the limit.
MI: Three strikes, you’re out.
What were you like when you were a 13-year-old?
MI: When I was 13, I was 21.
OH: When you were 13, you were 21? Huh?
MI: No, I don’t mean like the drinking and going out, but when I was 13, I remember working and trying to save money, and trying to get involved in some things.
OH: The thing I remember the most is being taller than all of the guys and being told, “Oh, look how long her legs are,” and being called “daddy long legs.”
MI: I got called some things, too.
OH: And it kind of hurt, but then again, I love it now.
MI: And now, you’re Miss Ohio!
What do you think is your most notable characteristic?
OH: I always get my hair, just because how long it is. So, I would say my hair—my hair and my legs.
MI: I would say either my cheeks, which my mom gave to me, or…
OH: Your eyes, I would say.
Describe a typical day in the life of a pageant queen. Is it as glamorous as one would think?
OH: It’s normal life.
MI: Normal life.
OH: Yeah, it really is. Go to school.
MI: Maybe you might get a little different attention from some people. Yeah, normal life.
OH: We wear sweatpants, too.
MI: We eat!
OH: We eat, too!
MI: We eat bread—and pizza.
What are your workouts like?
MI: We eat.
OH: That’s a great workout regimen, just eating. I run, I run every day. My mileage, it’s different all the time. And then, just doing crunches, ab workouts, sometimes I’m on the bike.
MI: For me, it’s long distance running. And I like weight training, kick boxing.
You’re walking down death row. What was your last meal?
MI: Sushi. I love sushi.
OH: LaRosa’s Pizza. It’s Cincinnati, it’s the best pizza. If you ever had it, you’d want to go to Cincinnati just to get this pizza.
MI: I’d want a hot dog from a Tiger’s game. Final answer.
What is your greatest fear?
MI: We got asked that question! She said, “sharks!” She’s so funny. Mine is snakes.
OH: Yeah, mine’s sharks. I hated Jaws when I was younger.
MI: I’m afraid of fake snakes, real snakes, imitations of snakes, snake costumes, snake skin—I hate snakes. But I had to hold one in a photo shoot, and I did.
OH: There was a photo shoot last year for Miss USA, and the whole thing was shark tank themed. They were in their bikinis right next to the sharks below, and they were getting pictures. I was like, “Oh my gosh,” if they made me get in that water next to the sharks, I would probably…
MI: Pee all over the shark.
What is your current state of mind going into the April Miss USA Pageant?
OH: I think just feel comfortable and confident in yourself. Don’t worry about the other girls, just worry about yourself and making you the best you that you can.
MI: For me, it’s three words that my dad always tells me: “Be yourself.” Is that three words?
OH: That’s two.
MI: Oh, no, “Rima, be yourself,” he used to say.
OH: So now we’ve got a third.
What one possession do you treasure the most?
MI: My Blackberry.
OH: Your Blackberry?
MI: I have everything in there. My diary is literally in there because of my notes in the notes section. I mean something that we carry everywhere and hold onto—I’d probably say my Blackberry. What would you say, your iPod? You told me you take your iPod everywhere.
OH: No, yeah, well I run with my iPod, so that would probably be one. But my most cherished would be all my pictures. I scrapbook, and I have tons of pictures.
What do you dislike the most about yourself?
MI: That I can be a little negative sometimes. I try not to be negative, but everyone is once in a while.
OH: Physically, I can’t say, “Oh, I hate my butt, or I hate my legs,” because, I mean, I believe in loving your body and who you are, but I may care too much for people. That could be it.
What do you look for in a guy?
MI: I look at his shoes.
MI: Yeah, you can tell a lot about a man by his shoes.
OH: Well, my boyfriend, what I love about him, is that he’s my best friend. He’s a huge support system for me, and I can tell him about anything and everything, so I really love that.
MI: Does he have any brothers?
OH: Yeah, he’s 15, so back off!
Self sacrifice: apply it to participating in pageants.
OH: Food. Give up food.
MI: Time. A lot of rehearsals.
OH: Time and sleep.
If you died and could come back as anything, who or what would you be?
MI: Barack Obama.
OH: I would want to come back as, not necessarily Cleopatra, but someone from that era and live in Egypt and be an Egyptian queen or Goddess, something like that.
If you had to name your child after a city in the U.S., what would it be?
MI: I would want to name my daughter Brooklyn.
OH: Brooklyn, I like that! That just got me thinking of Family Guy. Cleveland! No, I would not name my child Cleveland. I would probably go with Miami.
What makes you angry?
OH: Not getting enough sleep.
MI: When I see people hitting each other. I don’t like seeing anyone hurt a kid.
OH: I don’t like seeing those little leashes that parents have.
MI: Yes, yes.
OH: That’s the worst! It’s like, shouldn’t you get a dog?
What annoys you?
MI: Fake people and liars. I like people to be themselves.
OH: Yeah, and to be honest.
Be sure to watch the Miss USA pageant on April 18, 2010 in Las Vegas. It will air on NBC4.