On her way to Miss USA, beauty queen won in Jackson

Wednesday, April 14, 2004

On her way to becoming Miss USA 2004 Shandi Finnessey of Florissant, Mo., made a stop in Jackson. Finnessey was crowned Miss Jackson in 2001.

Mary Beth Williams, the director of the Miss Jackson Pageant, recalls working for about a year with Finnessey, who was a guest in her home. Williams remembers Finnessey as a very poised, very competitive young woman.

"She has modeled professionally for many years, and that really helps," Williams said.

After Finnessey won Miss Jackson, she went on to win the Miss Missouri pageant. She competed as Miss Missouri in the Miss America 2002 pageant and won the evening gown preliminary award, but not the crown.

The next year, as Miss Metro St. Louis, she entered the Miss Missouri USA competition, a pageant circuit different from the one leading to Miss America. She was crowned Miss Missouri USA at the Black River Coliseum at Poplar Bluff in October, which qualified her to compete for the Miss USA crown.

As this year's Miss USA, she will represent the United States at the Miss Universe pageant in Quito, Ecuador, on June 1.

Finnessey will return to the Black River Coliseum in October to crown the next Miss Missouri USA.

The two pageant circuits have different requirements. In addition to being judged on their poise, appearance and how they answer interview questions, the Miss America contestants are required to demonstrate a talent. For her Miss Jackson win, Finnessey played violin. When she competed for Miss America, she performed on the piano.

Miss USA contestants at the state and national level are judged only on poise, appearance and how they answer interview questions.

According to the Miss Missouri USA Web site, Finnessey has appeared in television commercials, has been a runway model, has posed for ads in magazines and newspapers and has modeled for a number of upscale fashion stores. She has written a children's book, is a motivational speaker, currently is a doctoral student at Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo., plays piano and violin, and practices meditation and yoga.

Finnessey listed bungee jumping and wrestling a greased pig in a mud pit as the craziest things she has ever done. The 25-year-old's favorite food is a supersized extra-value meal from McDonald's.

Like other pageant contestants, Williams said, Finnessey is focused on everything she does, especially winning.

"All are type A personality girls," Williams said. "They're very competitive, very attractive, they like attention, they like to be on stage, they like to perform."

Nevertheless, Williams said Finnessey stood out.

"I had never had anybody as Miss Jackson who had that kind of experience," she said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

lredeffer@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 160

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