miss-usa-olivia-culpo-winner-pics-2012-photo-swimsuit-universe.jpgMiss USA Olivia Culpo may have taken the Miss Universe 2012 crown on Wednesday (Dec. 19), but her pageant beginnings just over a year ago were somewhat meager.

“My parents didn’t think it was a good idea,” she tells Us Weekly of her first pageant — Miss Rhode Island — in October 2011 when she was a sophomore at Boston University. “And I ended up getting my dress the night before. It was a $20 Rent-the-Runway gown that was too short [and had] a hole in the back of it.”

“I was studying acting in college, and I figured [pageants] would help my stage performance and my ability to perform for others, so I just went for it,” Culpo says.

The now-20-year-old won the Miss Rhode Island title, followed by Miss USA in June. And she says none of the wins would have been possible without Miss Universe pageant co-host Giuliana Rancic.

“She is actually one of the reasons why I entered the Miss Rhode Island pageant [last year],” Culpo says. “At the time I had been thinking, ‘Oh, maybe acting, maybe hosting’ — I knew I wanted to go into entertainment. And I figured if Giuliana did [pageants], and Maria Menounos did Miss Massachusetts … I should give it a shot, too.”

Posted by:Jennifer Harper