Wednesday, April 14, 2004

Missourian new Miss USA

The Associated Press

Shandi Finnessey receives her crown from last year's winner Susie Castillo Monday night.
The Associated Press

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, won the title Monday night in Los Angeles over 50 other contestants and will represent the United States at 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 supersized extra-value meal from McDonald's, jumped up and down and pumped her right arm after she was crowned by outgoing titleholder Susie Castillo.

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

Finnessey, of Florissant, Mo., 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 year-long salary, and a two-year scholarship worth $45,000 to the School for Film and Television in New York.

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