For Crystle Stewart, 2008 was a year of firsts. It marked the first time that she traveled out of the country, tried a daring extreme sport and her first acting gig. But most importantly, it was the first time she’d ever been in the public spotlight. During her year as Miss USA 2008, Crystle’s face became a familiar one, as she was on a schedule of constant appearances, from her intense work with charitable organizations and non-profits to her cameo on Days of Our Lives. With her reign behind her, Crystle explains what made it so special and how her successor can follow in her footsteps.
Pageantry magazine: What are some of your fondest highlights from this past year as Miss USA?
Crystle Stewart: Sky diving! I did the tandem jump with the Golden Knights in Yuma, Arizona. This was the most exciting thing I’ve ever done in my entire life.
PM: You certainly traveled your fair share during your reign. What was it like to always be on the move and what was your favorite destination?
CS: Traveling to Vietnam to compete at the Miss Universe Pageant. This was my first time out of the country. The people were so nice and generous. There were 80 other young women from different countries that I learned so much from.
PM: How has your time as Miss USA changed you as a person?
CS: I feel I am more open-minded and more knowledgeable about a lot of things. This includes politics, cultures and countries, amongst other things. I am also more philanthropic. As Miss USA you work with a lot of charities and non-profit organizations that count on you to help bring awareness to their cause and raise money. I am also more mindful of the decisions that I make. As a role model I learned that my decisions not only affect myself but people that look up to me, and I take that very seriously.
PM: You made an appearance on Days of Our Lives last year, of which Shelley Hennig told us she was very impressed by. How did you feel about your performance and is acting something that you see in your future?
CS: I feel I did a pretty good job for my first acting role. Because of my experience in pageantry I am not afraid of cameras and people giving me direction. I had some coaching from a teacher at the New York Film Academy, which is a sponsor of the Miss USA Pageant. I never had the desire to become an actress. But after my role on Days of Our Lives I might have to consider it.
PM: Describe the experience of living in New York City with your Miss Universe and Miss Teen USA counterparts. What was the collective relationship like with the other girls, especially with your pageant cycles being different and girls coming and going?
CS: I enjoyed living in the house with the other girls. I have learned so much from them. You would probably assume there would be a lot of cat fighting, but that is not true. Fortunately, my roommates were mature and respectful. The main rule of the house was to keep the public areas clean (i.e. living room). Each of us did our part.
PM: What kind of reception do you get whenever you return home to Texas?
CS: The state of Texas seemed to be proud to bring home their ninth Miss USA. But more so the city that I am from—Missouri City—welcomed me back home with a key to the city, Crystle Stewart Day and a certificate from the mayor. My community has been so supportive throughout my pageant career.
PM: How have you handled the notoriety and fame that has come with the title? Is it as taxing and exhausting as it seems?
CS: It can be exhausting at times. But I keep in mind that it is for one year. So I would take it in stride and keep up my momentum. I remember flying from New York to California then to Maryland and back to California in one week. Back and forth, East to West Coast. I was living on a plane for the months of October to December. With the good there can be the bad, it is all part of the entertainment world. But, I must say, the good outweighs the bad.
PM: What are your career and personal ambitions for life after Miss USA?
CS: I would like to author a book in the near future about my pageant experiences. I also enjoy motivational speaking, which I plan to continue doing. My ultimate goal is to open a finishing school with a primary focus of character education. So I have a few things in the works.
PM: From your experiences in competing for Miss USA, what advice would you offer the contestants of future Miss USA Pageants?
CS: I would advise them to be the best person they can be. Do not strive for perfection but aim for excellence in everything that they do. I would want future contestants to be more than just beautiful on the outside but radiate from the inside as well.
PM: What advice would you offer the new Miss USA?
CS: To wear shoe grips at the Miss Universe Pageant. Having the title of Miss USA is an honor. You are not only representing yourself but your country, your community, your family and the Miss Universe Organization. I would advise her to make wise decisions throughout her reign. She is a role model and every decision that she makes, someone is watching. Capture and soak in every moment because the year goes by so fast. Lastly, have a good time!