She has all the makings of a typical pretty pageant princess: Picture-perfect hair and makeup, unnervingly even tan, MTV reality-show celebutante. Still, Miss Virginia USA, Tori Hall, says she'd happily parachute out of la-la land tomorrow and fall quite comfortably back to anonymity in her adopted hometown of Richmond.
Not just yet, of course. She has a Miss USA crown to win April 11. Before she leaves for Las Vegas for a few weeks of total immersion in pageant puffery, Hall, 21, dropped by Style Weekly's downtown office to talk about her fairy-tale life.
She's coy about Miss USA owner Donald Trump (she knows to hold her tongue after having "a mic on me for a year"). But she does open up about her MTV reality-game-show experiences (she's about $60,000 richer for the experience), beauty pageant moms and that perennial wish of every pageant queen: world peace.
Style: You don't have any pageant parents. What do you think of them?
Hall: Oh, they're nutty. And it's severe. I was a cheerleader in high school -- whatever. Pageant moms are outside this world. They really get into it like this is their life and these kids are going to win them some serious money. Pageant moms a lot of times really are ugly. They make these beautiful children, and they typically really aren't pretty women. But they have these beautiful children, and they prance them around like robots. It's ridiculous.
How did you win Miss Virginia?
I think a lot of my Reality-TV experience [on "Road Rules" and "Real World/Road Rules Challenge: The Gauntlet III"] had a lot to do with me winning. Reality TV is taking over the market. I think the judges were just intrigued to find out the other side of the story. I just did something with myself.
The whole pageant thing seems to have gone more toward this reality sort of thing. What are they failing at? Is it necessarily a good idea to go to that extreme to keep people watching?
America has to keep their attention, they have to know somebody. They have to feel like they can relate to them. They can't relate to a 5-foot-11-inch girl who weighs 110 pounds for one night only. She's pretty, great. But turn on Victoria's Secret fashion show and you'll see that, too. That's why America doesn't watch the pageants; they don't know [the girls]. They can't relate to them.
Miss America actually had really good ratings this year because they had a reality show leading up to it. They got to know the girls. They picked their favorite. They were rooting for their favorite to win. That's why America watches. It's about tragedy, too. We had a girl, Tara Conner she went to rehab as Miss USA that's what they see pageants as. How's Tara doing now?
Was that a bad thing or a good thing for Miss USA?
It was a great thing for the Miss Universe organization, because they got to be the hero and give her a second chance. It was an awful thing for pageants in general; they say 'Oh, this girl's pretty but she has a cocaine problem.' It discredits the [girls]. 'Oh, you're in Miss USA, do you have a problem?' 'No, I'm good, thanks.' It's great for Donald Trump. He got to be the savior. He grants you a second chance.
How about the rivalry between Miss America and Miss USA? Is world peace so easy to attain as some Jell-O and a kiddie pool?
Miss USA is the girl you wish lived next door and Miss America is the girl that does live next door. Miss USA's more the glamour and Miss America is more the 'let's save the world.' One's on cable and one's on the network.
Your grandmother brought this up that you're not into the "I need bigger boobs, I need better cheek bones." How do you feel about the whole enhancement thing? It seems like pageants have this as baseball has steroids.
It's absurd. A friend of mine is doing Miss Peru and she they told her all these things she needed done to her. She needed breast implants. She needed a better nose. You just are taken aback. Can't you just be happy in your own skin? That's what bothers me. She didn't do it. They haven't had their finals yet and it probably will have a big weight on whether she places or not. It's really, really sad that they want to have these plastic Barbies that we're not. It's sad.
I'll go to Miss USA [because of recent emergency abdominal surgery] and I'll be the "bigger girl" because of swelling.
The bigger girl?
Yeah, you can't see it. And I don't care, but this would seriously affect other girls. They'd be like, 'I can't go.'
You got lost on the way here, so let's ask the requisite geography question. This is the Lauren Caitlin Upton question: Recent polls have shown a fifth of Americans can't locate the U.S. on a world map. Why do you think this is?
I think we need to focus more on education. In America we're overlooking these things and we're focusing on the war in Iraq which is what she was trying to say [laughs]. Poor Caitlin. We're focusing on all these outside things and we're not focusing on our country.
You didn't even need Matt Lauer to come rescue you!
You're living in Chicago, but what's your take on Richmond these days?
My dad was filling me in on the way over here about the mayor and all of the drama. I love Richmond. It's home and it'll always be home. It's not too big, it's not Chicago and it's not a hick town.
Well, your competition's about leadership well, no, it's not, it's about beauty but let's pretend it's about leadership Wilder is currently under fire for his leadership skills. Any advice for the guy?
World peace please? I just think he needs to stop being so controversial.
How about George Bush?
I love George Bush [laughs]. I think it's just because I love his wife, she's just so classy. Not because of Democrat, Republican or anything like that.
Can you let us in on some of the catty behind-the-scenes stuff? We all heard about the itching powder in the makeup and the girl with the lipstick smeared on her gown.
It is catty. I am not your typical pageant girl. I'm not dying to be Miss USA. I do want to be Miss USA, but it's not going to affect me and my life [if I'm not]. But there are girls. This is their way into the industry. They want to be on TV. They want to make it. And that's great for them. But they get so caught up and consumed by the pageant itself and that two and a half weeks in Vegas knowing that one girl is going to walk away with this crown. To be honest with you I could probably ask you right now who Miss USA is and you'd have no clue.
I have no clue.
And it's just because they think it's a status thing and it's really not. I hope this year they give it to somebody who can really go do something good with it.
We've all heard about the duct tape in uncomfortable spots and the petroleum jelly on the teeth to get the big smile. What does Vaseline taste like?
Um, I don't know. I never did that. I'm sure it's not good.
What's the most ridiculous talent you've seen on stage?
They don't have talent in Miss USA. That's Miss America. I just show up. Getting on the plane and going to Vegas is enough talent. S