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10 Things You Didn’t Know About Miss Florida USA 2016

On the Parker Playhouse stage in Fort Lauderdale this summer, Brie Gabrielle, who hails from Palm Beach, had to bend her knees so the Miss Florida 2016 crown could make it to the top of her head. 

As she represents the state this summer, there’s a good chance Florida will finally have a Miss USA for the first time since the ’60s. 

Here, we give you 10 things you likely didn’t know about actor, fishing show co-host and Miss Florida USA 2016.

1. She grew up in an RV on Malibu Beach

When Gabrielle was 14, she, her mom and her sister gave up their home in Aspen, Colorado, for a 10- by-30-foot RV, which they drove to Los Angeles and parked on Malibu Beach. Gabrielle was homeschooled from it, so she’d have time to pursue an acting career.

2. Her first TV role was on Disney Channel’s “Drake & Josh”

After just a year in California, Gabrielle landed an appearance on Disney Channel’s “Drake & Josh,” followed by two episodes of “Hannah Montana.” By age 16, she graduated high school and enrolled in a community college, racking up 40 credit hours before transferring to Pepperdine University to earn a degree in psychology. Not in a rush to graduate, she kept her workload light and continued to book roles on shows like “Cold Case,” “Criminal Minds,” “The Riches,” “Days of Our Lives” and “My Name is Earl;” and movies like “Forget Me Not,” “Surfer Dude, Spring Breakdown” and “Leaving Barstow.”

3. It took five tries for her to finally snatch the state title

At 21, during her first year competing for the Miss California title, Gabrielle placed as first runner-up. Her second year, she placed second runner-up. 

After making the decision to return to Palm Beach—where her dad lives and where she had split her time while growing up—she competed again for the Florida title and received first runner-up, again. The next year, she didn’t place. 

“It was embarrassing, like, I don’t want to go back,” she says. “I had done everything I could, and I hadn’t placed at all.” 

But when the time came, her mom and a few mentors persuaded her to try for the title one last time.

4. To prepare for the Miss Florida USA 2016 competition, she ate hot dogs

With the competition falling a week after her 25th birthday on July 4, Gabrielle celebrated with a camping trip to Ginnie Springs in Gainesville, joined by about 20 friends. “I was eating hot dogs and had a few drinks, you know, I was so relaxed,” she says. “I didn’t want to go into it stressed like I had every other year.”

5. Her favorite part of beauty pageants is the questions

“I love interview,” she says. “Most people dread it, but the one-on-one interview with the judges I think is so much fun, and I’ve been doing it since I was 14—when you’re walking into a casting director’s office. You talk about yourself; it’s just a conversation.”

6. She’s the co-host of a fishing show

When Gabrielle returned to Florida, she landed a co-hosting role on the “Chevy Florida Insider Fishing Report.” Unlike most jobs she’s booked in a studio or from a stage, Gabrielle’s audition for the show was on the water. “They wanted to see if I could actually fish and that I wasn’t going to be a girly girl and afraid to touch the bait or hold the fish,” she says. Side note: Her biggest catch in Florida was a 120-pound tarpon.

7. Her spirit animal is a dolphin

“They’re always smiling by default,” she says. “It looks like they’re smiling, but it’s because they’re forced to. They have happy eyes, they’re always smiling, they’re always faithful and they live in the ocean, and sharks are afraid of them—so they’re awesome, they’re my favorite.”

8. She took solo trips to Europe, Australia and New Zealand after graduation

Gabrielle took a month after graduating college to discover Europe—by herself—hitting cities like Florence, Rome and Venice. The next year, she planned another solo, month-long trip to Australia. Before coming home, she decided on a whim to travel to New Zealand as well, since it was only an hour plane ride away. There, she went skydiving and black water rafting.

9. She has a tattoo she doesn’t cover when she’s competing

While most other contestants cover up tattoos or piercings, Gabrielle says the words “Just Breathe” etched on her wrist help calm her nerves. The phrase came from her dad, who, when Gabrielle got into her teen years and had a hard time letting go of the things she couldn’t control, would always say, “Count 10 and just breathe.” 

10. Up next for the 25-year-old: Maybe a trip to Indonesia and law school

What’s still on Gabrielle’s bucket list? Aside from taking the Miss USA title, Gabrielle wants to go to Indonesia, where she hopes to catch some waves since, yes, the multitalented beauty queen also surfs. But that’s not enough—she’d also like to go to law school. “I have to look at my own contracts, and entertainment law is something I’ve always wanted to do…” she says.