Stephani Costanza’s got the look.
At 25 years old, the reigning Tecate 2012 Miss Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach has the physique and bright smile a beauty queen needs to make it past the preliminary rounds — but she’s also got the attitude and sharp wit it takes to win a pageant.
“This isn’t just a bikini contest,” Costanza said. “It’s more than about looks, it’s about being the full package. You have to be in shape and be sharp and personable and be able to get on stage and be confident.”
She added: “It’s about how well-rounded you are and how well you can represent yourself and the brand. You have to be quick on your toes and think and be reassured and stand up for yourself.”
To win the Miss Grand Prix title, Costanza competed in a preliminary round of competition and then went on to the final round — staged during Tecate Thunder Thursday on Pine Avenue. This year, the format is the same, except she will be judging the competition rather than trying to win the crown.
An Arizona native, Costanza was working as a model and makeup artist when she decided to compete to be the next Miss Toyota last year. She said that she had recently broken up with her boyfriend at the time and needed a change and a morale boost — the pageant gave her that.
“Winning made me feel better,” she said. “And, it opened up so many doors for me. The ball just kept rolling… Now, I am modeling full time. I’m going to be in a Sketchers commercial… And, I was cast for a recurring role on (the TV show) ‘Who Gets The Last Laugh.’”
Her commitment as Miss Toyota didn’t stop after she won the title on Thunder Thursday, Costanza said the winner of the pageant commits to a full year of representing Tecate Light and the Toyota Grand Prix at various auto shows, charity events, photo shoots and more. Still, she said what she’ll always remember most was being able to stand on stage and present the trophy to the Toyota Grand Prix winning driver last year.
“A lot goes on behind the scenes, so it is really fun to be in the pits and go on the pace car ride and meet the drivers,” Costanza said. “The best part though is giving the racer the trophy and getting soaked with Champagne. It’s so thrilling to be on live TV and be a part of the excitement.”
She said her family back in Arizona has been very supportive of her role as Miss Toyota, although she admits that her dad had some misgivings about the possibility of his daughter falling in love with a racecar driver and following that driver around the country.
“I didn’t fall in love with a driver,” she says now with a laugh. “They are all gorgeous, but I’ve had zero time to date… Now, Dad thinks I’ll fall in love with an actor.”
When she crowns this year’s Miss Toyota tonight at Thunder Thursday, Costanza said the moment would be bittersweet. She said she is looking forward to focusing on her career as a model and actress, but will miss working with some of the friends she has made as Miss Toyota.
“It’s been so fun and exciting,” she said. “But, I’m ready to continue moving forward.”
She’ll still be at the event this year, guiding the 2013 pageant winner. And showing off the look.