Chelsea Cooley Altman was the first North Carolina woman to win Miss USA, back in 2005. She's now living in Wilmington and running two companies, including The Perfect Plate diet program and the image and leadership consulting firm StandOut Productions, which helped groom the current Miss USA, Kristen Dalton of Wilmington.
Busy as she is, Chelsea found time last year to marry mortgage planner Heath Altman, a former pro baseball player.
Following are excerpts of an interview with Chelsea by reporter Mark Price of Charlotte Observer.
Q. Married? You're killing me!
I love being married. He's my best friend. He's from Hamlet (N.C.), so we were raised with the same values…. I knew he was for me the first time we met. We both knew. We were judging a pageant, if you can believe that. He doesn't know anything about pageants, but they wanted a former ballplayer as a judge. I never thought I'd find a husband at a pageant.
Q. How did you help Kristen Dalton?
I've known her family for a while. In fact, Kristen caught the bouquet at my wedding. How's that for passing the torch! The best thing I can provide (pageant contestants) is my expertise of having been Miss USA, including all the mistakes. It's more a mental game than anything else. There's a lot coming at you, including meeting (pageant co-owner) Donald Trump. Kristen and I exchanged a lot of texts during the pageant, and I think I was able to help pump her up… The night of the pageant, I was on the front row, on pins and needles. We (StandOut Productions) had 15 girls total at Miss USA and five made the Top 15.
Q. There's a lot of controversy surrounding Miss California's comments on gay marriage. How could that have been avoided?
I think all the questions asked in the pageant were good, relevant, political questions. As Miss USA, you have to be up-to-date with things going on in the country. I applaud her for standing up for her beliefs, but I would like to talk to her about the decisions she's making now. She can only talk about what happened at the pageant for so long. If she's looking to get into the motivational speaking circuit, she should be concerned about her message and continuing to talk about this one topic… I don't want it to seem like I'm taking a stand on the content of her answer. I just think she needs to be careful of the people she surrounds herself with now and the path she takes. She's not a client. That's just advice.
Q. What souvenirs have you kept from your year as Miss USA?
I have two beautiful crystal trophies, one from Miss USA and one from making Top 10 in Miss Universe. I also have every single congratulatory letter I received from family, friends and people I don't even know. You should see the boxes. I can't part with them.
Q. What were some of the big thrills of your Miss USA reign?
Skydiving with the Golden Knights at Fort Bragg, since I'm terrified of heights… I also loved going to Bette Midler's 60th birthday party, which was on Halloween. She was dressed as (her character) “the Rose.” I think I met everybody there, including Elton John, Mariah Carey, and Sting asked me to sit with him and his wife at their table. I talked all night.