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16 Celebs You Didn't Know Were Once Beauty Pageant Queens

Miss America 2019 (which, yes, is happening in 2018) is right around the corner, and with it your annual excuse to watch Miss Congeniality judgment-free.

Though the nature of the competition has changed a lot through the last 98 years (this will be the first year without a swimsuit contest component), the gist of it remains the same: tiaras, evening gowns, and a universal desire for world peace. No matter what you think of beauty pageantry, there’s no denying that these competitions give young women a platform. Many pageant queens go on to do great things (ahem, Oprah, Diane Sawyer … ).

Scroll down below to see 16 women who made the transition from pageant contestant to celebrity.
                       
1 of 16
Katy Perry
Katy (or, uh, JonBenét, if you drink the Kool Aid), competed in pageants as a child.
                       
2 of 16
Priyanka Chopra
Before she stepped onto the Bollywood scene, Chopra was a star in a different galaxy: that of pageantry. At 18, the Quantico actress's career received a jumpstart when she earned the title of Miss World 2000.
3 of 16
Michelle Pfeiffer
The future three-time Oscar nominee earned her crown as Miss Orange County in 1978.

4 of 16
Eva Longoria
The future Desperate Housewife got her start as Miss Corpus Christi in 1998.
                       
5 of 16 
Britney Spears
Before the Mickey Mouse Club, Brit was a local pageant queen — she began competing at just 3 years old.

6 of 16
Oprah Winfrey
The talkshow queen-in-training earned the title of Miss Black Tennessee in 1971.

7 of 16 
Halle Berry 
The Oscar winner wore the title of Miss Ohio before competing (and placing sixth) in Miss World in 1986.

8 of 16 
Sophia Loren
The Italian screen siren competed in 1950's Miss Italy contest, earning the title of Miss Elegance.
                       
9 of 16
Lynda Carter
Just four years before she'd be known as the face of Wonder Woman, Carter was better known as Miss World USA 1972.
                       
10 of 16
Vanessa Williams
Williams made history as the first African American to win Miss America in 1984, though a nude photo scandal forced her to relinquish her crown before her reign had ended.

                       
11 of 16
Diane Sawyer
The longtime TV journalist earned the title of America's Junior Miss in 1962.
                       
12 of 16
Sarah Palin
After earning the title of Miss Wasilla, the future politician went on to win third in the 1984 Miss Alaska pageant.

                       
13 of 16 
Olivia Culpo
The occasional actress and model broke onto the scene when was crowned Miss Universe in 2012.
                          
14 of 16
Gal Gadot
Like her Wonder Woman predecessor, Gadot got her start in pageantry. She represented her country in the 2004 Miss Universe competition as Miss Israel.
                       
15 of 16

Sel's the most adorable pageant winner we've ever seen — the trophy's bigger than she is!
                       
16 of 16
Debra Messing
The future Will & Grace star was Rhode Island's Junior Miss in 1986. 

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