BLAST FROM THE PAST: QtoQInc.’s interview with Miss USA 1990 Carole Gist-Stramler

By Shevaun J.L. McGlone
Originally published in the April 2012 issue of the Queen to Queen, Inc. Monthly Members Blast

Carole Gist-Stramler won the Miss USA title in 1990 making her the first African-American woman to win the crown.

Carole Gist-Stramler won the Miss USA title in 1990 making her the first African-American woman to wear the crown.

In 1990, Carole Gist-Stramler did the unthinkable. She won Miss USA and became the first African-American woman to hold the crown. Her win inspired countless girls to reach for newer, higher goals and helped to transform the image of beauty in America.

Today, more than 12 years later, she inspires and helps countless women take back their bodies, improve their health, and make fitness a priority through her company Royal Physique Fitness in Detroit, MI.

On March 24 Queen to Queen, Inc. talked with Gist-Stramler about fitness in the African-American community – particularly among African-American women — her personal struggle with weight, her faith, and so much more.

Gist-Stramler: It [winning Miss USA 1990] was surprising. It was exciting. It was something great. It was something different for me. I’ve been athletically competitive for a while so to compete in something like this was new… In the pageant, when people asked, “What did it feel like to compete against the other women,” I said “I didn’t. I competed against myself.”

Preparing for the pageant, I had Post-Its everywhere that read, “Carole Gist, Miss USA 1990” on everything. They were in my car. They were in my room. They were on my mirror. They were on my books. Now that I look back, I think God prepared me for that moment. The semester of the pageant, I had a world studies course where I had to watch the news every night and read the Wall Street Journal. That was a part of my homework. So by the time the pageant came around, I was up on current events and what was going on in the world. You know they actually pay people to tell you to read up on current events at the pageant? Physically, during my time between classes or at lunch, I’d walk a little faster to class, run the stairs, or do lunges to get in shape.

When I first got to the pageant, my confidence was shaken. I looked at those other girls and started thinking I couldn’t win. They were beautiful… but God poked me. I don’t know how else to describe it, that feeling. But God poked me and pulled me and said, “You are just as beautiful and intelligent as anyone else here. You are My child.” If someone had a stopwatch, that whole inner dialogue would have lasted less than a minute. After getting past that, it was no problem but Miss Texas was under a lot of pressure. I think her name was Stephanie. Texas had won five years straight. She was a really nice girl. We talked and I tried to encourage her and help her let some of that stress go.

Read the full interview here!

Gist-Stramler: At one point I was almost 250 lbs. I started not to recognize who I was. Not speaking in a physical sense but more on a personal level. I didn’t feel like the queen that I am. I have to feel it, to know it, to be it. My company was birthed out of that struggle to find me. I started walking four miles a day [taking my children to school on the weekdays], every day except Sunday…Sundays were the days where I caught up on my housework. I did the kids’ laundry, made some dinners in advance for the week, that kind of stuff.

At one point I was going to the gym everyday but wasn’t seeing the changes. I got close to 200 lbs. but not under. Going through that, other parents saw me and I had a brigade of people walking around and they would do these four miles with me. They started to become bold enough and confident enough to do things they hadn’t thought they could do and they started giving me gifts to thank me. You know like a gift card or something. You know a gift card is maybe $20 or $40, a gym membership maybe $120, but a life-changing experience is priceless. That’s my Visa commercial! (We both laugh.)

Read the full interview here!

*Carole Gist-Stramler’s company, Royal Physique Bootcamp, is located in Detroit, Michigan. For more information about Gist-Stramler and her company, visit her website at


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