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The Daily Dish The Real Housewives of Orange County

Vanessa Lachey Has Fond Memories of Competing with This Future Real Housewife in the Miss Teen USA Pageant

The Top Chef Junior host took home the Miss Teen USA crown in 1998.

By Laura Rosenfeld
After Show: Lizzie’s Swimsuit Surprise

Before she served as the beautiful and bubbly host of Top Chef Junior, became #RelationshipGoals with her husband, Nick Lachey, and was the reason we tuned in to Total Request Live every day, Vanessa Lachey (née Minnillo) slayed the pageant circuit. In fact, Vanessa climbed to the top of the pageant game when she was crowned Miss Teen USA in 1998. 

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Vanessa, who represented South Carolina, actually wasn't the only familiar face in that competition, though. The Real Housewives of Orange County alum Lizzie Rovsek also competed in the 1998 Miss Teen USA pageant alongside Vanessa, representing the state of Kentucky under the name Elizabeth Arnold. 

Vanessa told The Daily Dish during a recent phone interview that Lizzie was "one of [her] dear friends" during the competition. "She was a sweetheart," Vanessa gushed. "She always had a really big smile, and we were all, you know, 16, 17, 18 years old. And so we got two weeks in Shreveport, Louisiana, *NSYNC was there performing, we were all just having so much fun, and that’s, gosh, 20 years ago. Oh my word. I’m pinching myself. 1998."

Lizzie, who would go on to have her own swimwear line, always rocked the swimsuit portion of pageants.

This pic proves Lizzie has always been stunning.

Lizzie's bright smile is just one of the reasons she was such a fabulous pageant contestant. 

Vanessa was extremely close with Lizzie during the competition, as well as her roommate, Miss Louisiana Jennifer Dupont. "We were like three peas in a pod," Vanessa said. "I remember [Lizzie's] energy just was always very fun and she had a really big, warm smile." 

Lizzie even had an adorable nickname among her fellow competitors, "Tucky," after her home state of Kentucky. "Everyone called [everyone] by their state because there’s 51 young girls you’re meeting for the first time, and you can’t possibly remember everyone off the bat, so we always wore our state," Vanessa explained. 

The RHOC swimwear designer previously reminisced about her career in pageants during an interview with The Daily Dish in 2015. "One of my favorite memories was competing at Miss Teen USA in 1998," she said. "It aired on CBS and was such a big deal at the time. Mario Lopez and Ali Landry hosted it (I think that’s where they met and started dating, too) and 'NSync performed on stage with us. What teenage girl didn’t love 'NSync? They were a HUGE deal! Vanessa Minnillo [Lachey] was my closest friend at the pageant and she ended up winning and went on to become a VJ on MTV."

Though Vanessa told The Daily Dish that she hasn't kept in touch with Lizzie, she did make lifelong friends during her pageant days, one of whom she even just spent Thanksgiving with, Jennifer Birmingham. "The only person I kept in touch with was my roommate and then actually through her, the next year when I went to give up my title, I met her dear friend, another Jennifer (Birmingham)," Vanessa said. "She and I have kept in touch since then. She’s the godmother to [my daughter] Brooklyn, and Brooklyn’s middle name is named after her. And so through that pageant, I met someone very near and dear to me that is still in my life today."

You can catch up more with Vanessa in her current gig on Top Chef Junior by checking out the Season 2 finale airing Saturday, December 1 at 6/5c on Universal Kids. Catch up on this season, below.

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