Olivia Culpo has never been shy. She has been studying and performing the cello for 14 years and has recently taken up modeling and acting. But on June 3, Culpo will appear before an audience unlike any other, when she appears on national television in the Miss USA competition.
“I feel confident right now,” Culpo said, adding with a laugh, “At least, I don’t think I’m going to be any more nervous than anyone else.”
Miss USA airs live on NBC on Sunday, June 3 at 9 p.m. Culpo is representing her home state as Miss Rhode Island, a title she earned in September.
“I was nervous, but I just tried to think about everything I put into it,” she said of the Miss Rhode Island pageant. “I was happy that all the hard work had paid off.”
A 20-year-old native of Cranston, Culpo graduated from St. Mary Academy Bay View in 2010, and is now wrapping up her sophomore year at Boston University. She is majoring in communications, and is interested in potentially working in broadcast journalism.
“I would love to maybe go into broadcasting. I’m not sure, but I really like being in front of the camera,” she said.
Culpo’s comfort in the spotlight comes, no doubt, from her success in music. She has played in the Rhode Island Philharmonic Youth Orchestra, among other notable orchestras, and won a seat as a cellist in the Boston Symphony Hall, Carnegie Hall and in a tour of England. She continues to perform with the Boston University Accompanietta.
“Because I played the cello, I was always on stage, in front of people,” she said.
It’s no surprise, then, that Culpo joined an acting and modeling agency in Boston, experience that will serve her well in the pageant world. Unlike many pageant participants, Culpo started at the top. Miss Rhode Island was her first ever pageant.
“It’s been a learning experience,” she said.
Her positive experiences at Bay View, a community of strong, supportive women, encouraged her to seek out a new source of female camaraderie and support.
“I love being surrounded by people who are really dedicated and inspiring,” she said.
Training for pageants starts about five months before the competition. Culpo undergoes physical training and also consults with pageant veterans on how to present herself. The advice of more experienced pageant contestants, she said, has been invaluable as she prepares for a national competition.
“I ask a lot of advice from past titleholders,” she said.
Preparing for the interview portion of a pageant is particularly challenging, as you never know what the judges will ask, but Culpo said she keeps informed on current events and practices answers for potential questions in order to get used to thinking on her feet.
“You try to have an answer for everything, and have an opinion on everything,” she said.
In Miss USA, there is no talent portion, but Culpo will compete in interview, evening gown and swimsuit. She wouldn’t give away any hints on what her gown will look like, though.
“Tune in on June 3 and you’ll get a full view,” she quipped.
Her advice for other future pageant contestants is to be yourself.
“Be authentic,” she said. “Don’t concentrate on trying to impress anyone or compare yourself to anyone else.”
Juggling school, work and pageant has been difficult, but Culpo considers herself lucky. She lives by the motto, “too blessed to be stressed.” Representing Rhode Island, she said, is a privilege, and one that she does not take lightly. She hopes to portray the Ocean State as she sees it – a tight knit community of people.
“We have a lot of love. I would say we’re the smallest state with the biggest heart,” she said.
If she is crowned Miss USA, Culpo said she would take the optional year off to support the Miss USA organization. Susan G. Komen for the Cure is the organization’s official charity, and Culpo would also like to support music education, which she says helps children in all academic subjects and outside of the classroom as well.
“It’s definitely prepared me in more ways than just musically. I think it’s awful that some kids have that opportunity and some children don’t,” she said.
Being able to extend that opportunity to other children, while supporting the Susan G. Komen mission, would be a dream come true for Culpo.
“You can really make a difference, and that’s what I want to do,” she said.
Part of the Miss USA competition is a fan vote. To support Miss Rhode Island Olivia Culpo, follow her on Twitter @RealMissRIUSA. Fans can vote through her Twitter page, on Facebook.com/Official MissUSA or by visiting www.missuniverson.com/missusa and clicking on the contestants tab.