Not just a beauty contest

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Pepperdine University senior Brie Gabrielle was named Miss Malibu 2012. She went on to compete against 278 other women for the title of Miss California last month, where she earned second place. Photo by Todd Levine

Miss Malibu Brie Gabrielle talks about the preparation and training that goes into competing at beauty pageants after she nearly clinched the Miss California USA title last month.

By Michael Aushenker / Special to The Malibu Times

Seven years ago, Brie Gabrielle won the Miss Teen Malibu contest, despite experiencing a debilitating episode of stage fright. When a judge asked the 14-year-old who her favorite world leader was, Gabrielle drew a blank.

“I froze up for like two minutes,” she recalled. “The audience members shouted out answers. It was that bad. From that point, I always had a phobia of standing on stage like that.”

Now 21, Gabrielle has come a long way since that awkward moment. Last fall, the Pepperdine University senior won the title of Miss Malibu 2012, and in January, Gabrielle was named first runner-up at the Miss California USA beauty pageant in Palm Springs.

With 278 women competing, Miss California is the most competitive pageant in the nation. The competition consisted of three nights: Friday night featured interviews with the panel judges and Saturday night was the evening gown and bathing suit contest. Scores from both nights were combined to narrow the nearly 300 women down to just 20 finalists by Sunday night.

With so many women competing for Miss California, Gabrielle left nothing to chance.

“I did a lot of interview coaching,” she said. “I did a lot of research when it came to politics in California, the presidential politics going on right now.”

Her pursuit of an acting career has also helped her poise on stage. Since age 14, Gabrielle has played on television and in movies. Her credits include a horror film called “Forget Me Not” and guest-starring roles on shows such as “My Name is Earl,” “Criminal Minds,” “The Riches,” “Cold Case” and “Hannah Montana.”

To prepare physically for Miss California, Gabrielle worked with a personal trainer.

“We did the stairs in Santa Monica,” she said. “I didn’t think I was able to walk in heels because of my calves. I definitely gave myself an ice bath because my muscles hurt so bad.”

Gabrielle also worked out at a Malibu gym.

“I did a lot of cardio, yoga and some surfing,” she said. “And of course, eating healthy.”

As a finalist, Gabrielle received two questions: one from a contestant, the other from a judge.

The first question: “What is the characteristic that you think you have that would make you a good Miss California?”

“Determination,” Gabrielle answered. “Growing up, we lived in the Malibu RV Park in a 10-by-30-foot motor home. We didn’t have any money and we drove by Pepperdine every day. And even though I knew it would cost a lot of money, I knew I would be going there one day.”

She was also asked, if she had a classmate who was cheating on a test, would she tell the teacher?

“The girl before me froze,” Gabrielle said. “I felt so bad for her because that’s what I went through when I was 14.”

Gabrielle answered, “No, I wouldn’t tell on them because in reality they are only cheating themselves. I would disassociate myself from them as a friend because it was cheating. However, I believe in karma.”

Gabrielle ultimately lost the crown to “Miss Hoag Hospital” Natalie Pack, a UC Irvine medical school student who entered on behalf of the Newport Beach facility where she is interning.

Despite the near miss, Gabrielle loved the experience. A personal highlight for Gabrielle came close to home.

“My roommate [at Pepperdine], she had gotten into a car accident,” Gabrielle said. “She didn’t think she could walk again. She was there [competing] and she moved me to tears.”

Gabrielle relished the idea of coming so close to winning the title.

“It was such an enlightened idea for me that I could make it that far and I gained a lot of confidence and maturity,” she said. “I could not believe that I made it this far. There were 278 intelligent women competing.”

Most of all, Gabrielle feels that she has come a long way since the Miss Teen Malibu contest when she experienced stage fright.

“I think I’ve pretty much overcome that [fear],” she said. “That’s my own personal yee-haw!”