Total Request Live
"I didn't know what I was doing. I was there to have fun." Vanessa Minnillo on her Miss Teen USA experience
First noticed as “Miss Teen South Carolina” in 1997, Vanessa Minnillo received more recognition when she was crowned “Miss Teen USA” in 1998. She subsequently found fame as a TV host and regular on MTV's Total Request Live (TRL, since 2003) and became a reporter for the entertainment news show Entertainment Tonight, in 2005.
The 5' 8" tall Filipino and Irish/Italian descendant was named one of Maxim magazine’s “Hot 100” in 2005 and 2006. Personally, she has had an on-and-off again relationship with New York Yankee shortstop Derek Jeter (since November 2003) and is now romantically linked to Jessica Simpson’s ex-husband, singer Nick Lachey (Minnillo was featured in his music video "What's Left of Me").
Air Force Girl
Childhood and Family:
At Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines, Vanessa Minnillo was born on November 9, 1980, to Irish-Italian father Vince Minnillo (retired from Air Force) and Filipino mother Helen Berecero. Her parents met when her father was based in the country. Because of her father’s profession, Vanessa and her family, including an adopted brother (Vincent Minnillo, two years older), frequently moved from one place to another. They lived in California, Nevada, Florida, Germany and Japan before settling down in Charleston, South Carolina. During that time, Vanessa attended seven different schools, joined school cheerleader teams and worked as a volunteer for several local charities.
In 1983, her parents separated and then divorced in 1986. Afterward, Vanessa and her brother were raised by her mother and saw their father only on weekends. Her mother later married an U.S. Air Force Serviceman and Vanessa followed them when they moved to Turkey, where her step-father was assigned. When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, the family was forced to leave the country. Her mother brought Vanessa and her brother back to America and left them with their father. Vanessa never saw her mother again. She began a new life with her brother and her father’s new wife, Donna Minnillo, in Charleston, South Carolina. She attended Charleston's Bishop England High School.
In her free time, Vanessa enjoys playing flag football, volleyball and tennis. The avid surfer has three miniature pinschers: Rudy, Little Nicky and Bubba. As for music, she once said that her favorite artists were R&B singer Beyoncé Knowles and Jessica Simpson’s younger sister, Ashlee Simpson.
Vanessa Minnillo first joined a beauty pageant after being encouraged by her boyfriend’s father. After competing with hundreds of gorgeous girls, Vanessa won the title “Miss Teen South Carolina” in 1997. Following her triumph, she became eligible to compete in the national Miss Teen USA pageant.
At the event, held in Shreveport, Louisiana, on August 17, 1998, Vanessa received the highest score in the Interview, Swimsuit, and Evening Gown categories. She consequently was crowned “Miss Teen USA” and was named “Miss Congeniality,” making her the first delegate from South Carolina to earn the title.
The 1998 Miss USA went back to school as an honor student and head cheerleader. On weekends, she traveled the country as “Miss Teen USA” and a national spokeswoman for The Partnership Against Drugs.
Graduating from high school, Vanessa moved to Los Angeles to pursue show business. She found a job as a host for Fox Sports Net and ESPN, and was splashed on the daytime soap “The Bold and The Beautiful.” She also became one of the finalists in E!'s competition to find a replacement for Brooke Burke to be the hostess for the show “Wild On.” The job eventually went to Cindy Taylor.
In 2003, Vanessa made her first appearance on MTV on “Beach House.” Her work impressed the network executives and since September of 2003, she worked full time at MTV's Times Square studio in New York City as an ad voice and a regular on Total Request Live (TRL).
Meanwhile, Vanessa could also be seen hosting other shows and specials like “2 Punk Rock 4 This: The Real World San Diego Reunion,” “Spring Break Celebrity Fantasies,” “MTV Prom Date” and “Never Before Scene: I, Robot.” She was also a judge on the Miss Teen USA 2003 program and became a reporter for the entertainment news show Entertainment Tonight, in 2005.
Adding to her hosting job, Vanessa also works as a model. In 2004, she was the cover girl for the June 2004 issue of American Cheerleader magazine and was in the Skintimates shaving gel commercial. The following year, she was the cover girl for the men’s magazine Maxim (October 2005 issue, with a feature and photo spread), which was inspired by videos of music stars Madonna, Britney Spears, Jennifer Lopez and Beyonce.
More recently, Vanessa did a photo shoot for the February 2006 issue of Vogue, dressing as Alex Owens (Jennifer Beals) from the 1980s movie Flashdance, as a tribute to the Oscars. She is also featured in Nick Lachey's music video “What's Left of Me,” as his love interest.
"You have to always remember to be yourself." Vanessa Minnillo