miss december knows you can't take life lying down
Another woman's beauty pageant victory prompted Shanna Moakler to pack her bags and head west. "I was first runner-up for Miss USA and I remember watching the girl who beat me win Miss Universe on TV," she says. "My phone started ringing. I inherited her crown and had to move to Los Angeles." The 26-year-old Rhode Island native, who started modeling at the age of 15, got her acting break with the role of a conniving cop on the TV series Pacific Blue. "I was like Heather Locklear on Melrose Place -- the naughty one," she says. "I got to do things I wouldn't normally do in everyday life."
After roles in such movies as The Wedding Singer and Love Stinks, Miss December took time off to raise her daughter, Atiana, with former fiancé Oscar De La Hoya. When the boxer publicly broke up with her, Shanna filed a $62.5 million palimony suit that is still pending. "It was devastating and cruel to see him on TV at the Latin Grammy Awards with another woman," she says. "I don't know what his intentions were besides to hurt me, but he succeeded at that." She met new boyfriend Dennis Quaid (who endured a similar breakup with Meg Ryan) after his band, the Sharks, performed in a Los Angeles club. "One of the reasons Dennis and I really connected is that we both went through humiliating public betrayals and he understands what I'm feeling," she says. "He is such a gifted, underrated actor." Although Quaid is 47, Shanna brushes off comments about their 21-year difference in age. "He has a better body than any 25-year-old and boundless energy," she reports. "It has never been an issue."
In between raising her daughter and going on auditions, Shanna writes screenplays and records songs with her band, DVS. "It's pronounced devious," she says. "We sing Destiny's Child-style R&B music and we're having a lot of fun recording our demo." She has also been devoting her time and money to the Special Olympics since she was 13. "I was a professional roller skater for 10 years and I would volunteer at the rink to teach these kids to skate," she says. "I got to work with these amazing families who were told their children would never run or laugh. I got to witness miracle after miracle. If I wasn't acting, I would love to work in a hospital with newborns in the nursery or doing ultrasounds." More than anything, Shanna wants everyone to know she is a survivor and not brooding about her past. "I am a spiritual person and believe God is leading me and my daughter in a better direction," she says. "I won't ever let the betrayal of one man make me afraid to fall in love again."
Photography by Stephen Wayda