New Mrs. Maryland in spotlight before Renee Shanahan, 26, previously had won 2 other beauty pageants

June 28, 1996|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

Renee Shanahan has done something no other woman ever has. The 26-year-old Pasadena resident can lay claim to a beauty pageant Triple Crown.

She is a 1987 Ms. Maryland Teen USA winner and a 1992 Ms. Maryland USA winner. Then, last Saturday, she beat 15 women at the Maritime Institute of Technology in Linthicum and was crowned Mrs. Maryland, becoming the first woman in the country to win pageants on all three levels.

"It's a great feeling," said the co-owner of Rumors Salon on Mountain Road. "I think it's great to represent my state and to be the first to do this in the history of this type of program."

Shanahan's road to victory was filled with the cuts and bruises associated with being an active child but that often prove disastrous for someone with beauty pageant aspirations, said her mother, Helen Neisser. And when she was 12, Shanahan broke her coccyx while competing in a figure roller-skating event, her mother said.

"People always thought she was different, but I think that's because she carried herself so well," Neisser said. "I don't think Renee was the most beautiful, but she had the total package."

With some prodding from her father, Harry Neisser, Shanahan competed in her first Ms. Maryland Teen USA pageant as a 15-year-old Chesapeake Senior High School sophomore in 1985. She earned semifinalist status that year and was the second runner-up in 1986 before winning the teen pageant in 1987.

In 1989, Shanahan, then 19, was selected in what would be the first of three consecutive first runner-up places in the Ms. Maryland USA pageants. But her persistence paid off in 1992 when she was named Ms. Maryland.

Shanahan said she was spurred on by something she had written in her high school yearbook her senior year. "I wrote that I would like to compete for the Ms. America crown someday," she recalled.

But Shanahan never made the cut past the first round in any of the national contests -- which did not bother her.

"I'm not a sore loser," she said. "I do it for fun. I think that if you stress yourself out, you're taking yourself too seriously."

In September, she married David Shanahan, a former Mr. Maryland USA. She hadn't thought about entering the Mrs. Maryland pageant until her mother encouraged her to.

"This was the right time," Shanahan said. "Eventually, I'd like to start a family."

Sid Sussman, director of the Mrs. Maryland pageant, said he is certain no other woman has done what Shanahan has done.

"She had the guts to keep coming back," said Sussman, who has been involved with beauty pageants for 38 years. "When people lose, they don't want to come back, but she kept coming back."

To keep her 5-foot-7, 125-pound figure in shape, Shanahan does 45 minutes of cardiovascular exercises and 45 minutes of weightlifting four days a week. She also eats food low in fat.

Shanahan disputes the stereotype that pageants are focused solely on looks. "It's not just based on beauty," she said. "You have to have brains and a classy approach to it. It's the total package."

Shanahan will compete for the national crown in Las Vegas in September, but the success hasn't gone to her head.

"I go out of the house without any make-up on, and I don't always look my best," she said. "I'm just an everyday person focused on being a great wife hoping to be a great mom."

Pub Date: 6/28/96

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