Bravotv.com: You And Shelley seem very close – do you consider her competition? How do you balance competing and having a friendship?
Vanassa Sebastian: Yes, Shelley and I are very close and have an authentic friendship. While we are so different from one another and complete opposites, it works very well for us. True friends don't compete against one another they compete WITH one another!! When I compete, my biggest competition is myself. Don't get me wrong, I want to win and I do everything in my power to make that happen. However, when you have an authentic friendship and you truly admire and respect someone, if they win, their victory becomes yours as well. Balancing competition and maintaining a real friendship is effortless and natural for us. Real friends lift each other up, not tear each other down.
Bravotv.com: How did you meet Susanna? Do you consider yourself a mentor to her?
VS: We developed what I thought was a friendship. Boy, was I wrong. Many people told me not to trust her, but I wanted to trust her because I liked her. I was such a fool.
Prior to Tri-State, Susanna reached out to me and asked for my help. I thought I was just helping a friend, because that's what friends do. I didn't necessarily consider it "mentoring" her. Susanna, like many women, had some insecurities about competing. I did my best to put her mind at ease by sharing my personal story about my breast cancer journey and all of the effects it has had on me, my family and my life. It was here that I shared my biggest insecurity and secret -- my breast asymmetry, which was the result of surgery and radiation. I've shared this with very few people, but I wanted her to realize that despite numerous insecurities that we as women have, you CAN'T allow them to limit or define you. "Mrs." pageants are about what we, as married women, have accomplished and how our life experiences make us who we are. I wanted Susanna to realize that she like, myself, could rise above her fear of failure. Apparently, sharing this intimate personal experience would prove to be a huge mistake.
Bravotv.com: Tell us about being a registered nurse and a beauty queen. Do you feel people look at you differently once they hear about what you do?
VS: I'm a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist and I administer anesthesia in the operating room. My profession is not glamorous at all. It is far from anything sparkly. I'm in baggy scrubs my hair is up and covered, no make up, no jewelry, no bling!! However, my profession is very serious and I have patients lives in my hands every day. I take my job very seriously and happen to love what I do. Whenever I tell people what I do for work, they ALWAYS seemed shocked. I think that many people still struggle with a beauty queen also having brains. As an APRN, I also could have my own practice. However, the flexibility that I have currently have allows me more time with my family and personal interests.
My profession is highly respected and highly regarded in the medical community. Many colleagues are surprised at my choice to compete in "Mrs." pageants and initially they don't quite get it. They don't understand that pageantry allows me to challenge myself in a different kind of way. However, they soon begin to see the commitment and dedication that pageantry requires and they become very supportive. Now, some of my most esteemed colleagues are pageant fans. . .Yayyy!!
Bravotv.com: What would you have done differently in Susanna’s Ms. Tri-State competition? Do you agree with Leha that she still needs adjustments/more work? Were you surprised she won?
VS: I wish I would have known what she was wearing for interview. Her interview outfit was not something that I would not have worn. The first time that I had seen it was on TV. Interview is a time when you are up close and personal, and the judges are able to get a sense of who you really are. You definitely want to represent yourself with style and class. This may have helped her win the OVERALL title of Ms. Tri-State (highest score from CT, RI, & MA contestants combined), as opposed to just winning the state title of Ms. Tri-State Rhode Island. I agree with Leha and think there is always room for improvement in pageantry and if Susanna really wants to compete in the big leagues, she has some work to do. I was not surprised Susanna won. I thought she did very well and I was very happy for her. She really worked hard and wanted that crown, and she deserved the title in my opinion.
Bravotv.com: Tell us what you were thinking when Lori-Ann came in with that Red Robin costume on. Why did you decide to lend her your outfit?
VS:I was thinking exactly what I said,"Ummmmm, NO!. . .What the F? Seriously!?!" On a more serious note, it was far from appropriate attire for any married woman to wear. I lent her my outfit because I didn't feel that her costume was up to par with the quality of costumes at Mrs. America. I know and understand that Lori-Ann is very comfortable wearing next to nothing and skimpy outfits on stage. However, this was NOT the time NOR the place. The outfit was quite tasteless and inappropriate for any up-scale pageant,especially Mrs America, but that is only my opinion. I tried to explain to Lori-Ann on several occasions that you don't necessarily have to expose your entire body in order to be sexy and that Mrs. America is much more modest than what she is used to. She knew this especially after the very first time she competed against me in 2012 and was my Second Runner Up.
Lori-Ann did NOT enter Mrs. Connecticut America in 2013 on a "whim." She competed against me in 2102 and was my Second Runner Up. When she competed AGAIN in 2013, I helped her prepare and she WON! I continued to help Lori-Ann prepare for Mrs. America in every phase of competition. So when Lori-Ann called me in a a panic and asked for my help with her state costume, I was more than happy to help her as I was already helping her in so many other ways. My advice to Lori-Ann was just that. . .advice. She doesn't have to listen to me. She can do what she wants. It is just my opinion and what worked for me. It is NOT an absolute. As a friend, I wanted to help her and let the costume portion of the competition be one less thing she had to think about. I also had no choice. She was leaving for Mrs. America in just a couple days and I couldn't let her go there and embarrass herself or our state by wearing that outfit. In retrospect, I should have let her wear it.
Bravotv.com: Do you think Lori-Ann has what it takes to win Mrs. America?
VS: No, unfortunately I do not. I definitely wanted her to do well and I wanted her to place, but I think deep down she lacks the sophistication and refinement that Mrs. America requires. I'm just being realistic. I care for Lori-Ann like she is my little sister. I was rooting for her, but I also understood what she was up against. I compare it to having a favorite football team. You love them, cheer for them, wear their jerseys, and show up at every game. And come Super Bowl time, you know that even though they've made it this far, the team they're playing against is going to crush them. The other teams stats are solid. It doesn't mean your not supporting your favorite team. It doesn't mean you don't want them to win. It simply means that you see the big picture -- that your team doesn't stand a chance against the big boys.
Bravotv.com: What were you thinking when Susanna called you about the "fashion faux pas"? Why didn’t you change? What would you have done if you were Susanna?
VS: My initial thought was exactly what it was -- another calculated move by Susanna. Everything this woman does is premeditated and well thought out. Clearly, this was one of the only ways that she could get attention and Susanna will do whatever it takes to make that happen. Trust me, the airport argument wasn't a proud moment for me. However, I own what I said and my actions. I was heated and she challenged me.
When Susanna called me, my knee jerk reaction was to take the high road and change. However, after thinking about it, I realized that there was no need for ME to do that. Clearly, she knew I had purchased the outfit for travel and clearly she knew that I was wearing it. As a matter of fact, she even thought it was "funny" that she was wearing the same outfit. Otherwise, she would have never felt the need to call me about the "fashion faux pas." She admitted that she knew I purchased it and I was wearing it, but still went ahead and bought it for herself!! Who does that?! It's just wrong and very attention seeking in my opinion. I also didn't have time to change given the fact that I was leaving for the airport soon after that conversation. I was going to give her exactly what she wanted and if she wanted to see who wore it best then that's what we were going to do. Then again, she looks better in that outfit "Ten times a f---ing day." Not exactly sure what she meant by that but, okay. . .
Again, Susanna knew that I had previously purchased that outfit for our day of travel. She purposely and maliciously sought out that outfit to bring attention to herself. Really now, what kind of person does that? Especially to someone who you consider a "friend." If I were Susanna I would have never even considered buying the same outfit let alone wearing the same outfit as a friend. The thought would have NEVER crossed my mind. Clearly she knew exactly what I was wearing and loved my style. Very calculating. However, imitation is the best form of flattery. This subject, or should I say Susanna, warrants no more attention or merit. If there is a lesson to be learned in all of this ladies, when in doubt please pass on wearing the same outfit as your girlfriend to the same event because in the end, you'll look like a "fame whore," or shall I say attention whore, and that is one fashion faux pas that no one wants to be a part of.
Bravotv.com: Tell us about the argument in the airport. Did you expect bringing up the outfit in the airport would lead to such a heated argument? Do you think Susanna went too far?
VS: As I said earlier, the airport scene was NOT one of my proudest moments, but the outfit issue needed to be addressed. As soon as I started the conversation she got very defensive and mouthy by saying, "Vanassa don't be drama." Again, not sure what she meant by that, but okay! I never thought she would start cackling like she did so quickly. I didn't expect Susanna to be so immediately defensive and not be able to handle an adult conversation about a situation that SHE CREATED. This is what she wanted right? Attention. However, in retrospect my guess is that she wished she never made a personal attack about breast asymmetry to a breast cancer survivor. Shameful. Then again, I don't think Susanna cares about whether or not she gets good attention or bad, as long as she's getting it.
Yes, I do believe Susanna went way too far. When she screamed, "Go get your boobs fixed," she crossed the line. I shared my story with Susanna in confidence to help her, not to have it used against me and even worse NOT for all of America to know this! This was definitely something private and something I didn't want the world to know. Thank you Susanna. I think its a true reflection of who you really are. America now sees that!
In the end, I was forced to confront my insecurities, yet again, this time in front of America. I hope that women and breast cancer survivors can see that despite all of life's challenges, we must stay strong, stay positive, stay true to yourself and never let anyone or anything dull your sparkle. And most importantly, always do your best to turn a negative into a positive. It's liberating.