Rachel, who entered the competition as Miss Tennessee, says hearing her name announced as Miss USA was an "out of body experience." "I had a delayed reaction because I was thinking, 'Okay, did they call [first runner-up Miss] Rhode Island or did they call myself?'" she says. "And so I just waited and I was, like, 'Oh, my God.'"
Rachel also spent time volunteering at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls—South Africa. She had always dreamed of going to Africa, so her mother and her Harpo bosses joined forces to create an opportunity for Rachel as a graduation present.
Rachel says she was blown away by the students. "They're brilliant. They have such enthusiasm and passion," she says. "And they would ask me, 'Miss Rachel, you only speak one language?' And I'm like, 'Yeah, I'm going to work on that.'"
Beverly, Rachel's mom, says Rachel never got swept up in pageantry. "Rachel is just such a down-to-earth—always has been—such a down-to-earth child. She really liked doing pageants because she could be with other kids," Beverly says. "She never cared about winning. She cared about going and doing."
To get her through the rest of the competition, Rachel says she relied on the law of attraction and positive thinking. "I lived by my faith and The Secret. I was reading The Secret. I was reading excerpts every night. And that just gave me the driving force that I could do it," she says. "I was thinking, 'I'm going to get out there and nail that pattern, and I'm going to woo them, and I'm going to show them my personality and my charm. … I'm not going to give 'em a reason why they shouldn't pick me to do this.'"
Now that she's attracted the crown, is Rachel worried about it falling off? "Oh, yeah! And I don't want to be liable for something like this," she says. "I love this little Mikimoto. It's a nice little addition to my wardrobe."
Although she doesn't have to wear it everywhere, Rachel says she's happy to put it on anytime.
Rachel, who graduated magna cum laude from Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, will also compete in the Miss Universe pageant in Mexico City. "I can't wait to see what this year holds for me. I just graduated with a journalism degree, so who knows…opportunities are endless. This is just the beginning," Rachel says.
Now Reverend Run, or Rev Run, is back in the spotlight with his family of seven in the MTV reality series Run's House. For 12 hours a day, cameras follow the highs and lows of Rev Run, his wife, Justine, and their five children—23-year-old Vanessa, 19-year-old Angela, 17-year-old Joseph, 12-year-old Daniel and 10-year-old Russell.
Family life is a big priority in Rev Run's house. From holding family meetings to taking everyone bowling, Rev Run makes sure they pencil in quality time together. "Family doesn't happen automatically," he says. "We work on family."
Rev Run says his family wants to show viewers that a family that plays together, and prays together, stays together. "I told the family, 'Let's show what we do on a day-to-day basis to America, to show how we're an organized, happy family. So for us, it was a service," he says. "People say, 'I wouldn't want cameras in my house,' but we didn't look at it like that. We wanted to show what we do to inspire."
About five months into the pregnancy, doctors told Justine and Rev Run there was a problem. The baby's organs were growing outside her chest cavity. Despite this development, the couple continued to hope for a miracle.
Justine gave birth to a baby girl one month before her due date. Sadly, the baby died an hour after she was born. Cameras continued to roll as Justine and Rev Run told their children the sad news and as the family held hands and prayed.
Rev Run says he wanted MTV to keep the cameras rolling during this painful time. "My reason was we showed you all the bowling, we showed you the fun, we showed you the happiness, we told you in the cliffhanger of the second season we're having a baby…people are emotionally involved," he says. "We were going through something. You have fun with us, pray with us, mourn with us, laugh with us—it's a reality show. I'm not going to stop the reality."
"I want the world to know that you're supposed to be grateful in all things," Rev Run says. "I don't understand what God did, why he did it, but I do know that I'm here now, I'm happy now, I'm here on Oprah, I have my children with me, and I don't have to keep remembering this if it's going to bring me down and send me into depression."
Gayle says she starts each day by reading Rev Run's e-mail. "I look at it as positive energy that you can just pass around. I think you put positive energy out there whenever you can."
"That's the time where I believe you need to be involved more," Rev Run says. "This is the time when they're making the biggest decisions of their life. … This is the time when they're making career decisions. You don't back up now. When they're 17, 18, that's when they're ready to get high and act stupid. They pick the wrong boyfriend, the wrong girlfriend. So at that point, I'm right there."
Do Rev Run's children like having him this engaged in their lives? "Yeah, I do, actually. Because you can make the wrong decision and they've been through life before," Vanessa says. "Sometimes the truth might hurt or I might not want to hear that or I might not want to do that, but in the long run, it's the right [thing]."
Tom says three major events made them start to seriously plan their family's trip. First, volunteering in New Orleans during the cleanup after Hurricane Katrina made him realize "we focus too much on stuff," he says.
Then, a friend's son died. "That really made us think how short our time is with our kids."
Lastly, Tom experienced complications during a surgery, which made him think about his life. "When I took a look at my life, I realized I was spending most of my time working. And even though my family is the most important thing, I'm focusing on work," Tom says. "So this is really about taking the time for a year to just focus on family—and the fact that we're doing it going around the world is just an added blessing."
In addition to packing, Tom and Anne had to figure out how their four school-age children would continue their lessons on their adventure. So the two older boys are enrolled in online classes through an American university, and Anne has taken on teaching duties for the younger kids.
"We put a lot of focus on serving children around the world, and that helps the kids really see what life is like for kids in China, Cambodia, India, in places where it makes them really appreciate all the great things that they have," Tom says.
Fourteen-year-old Dax says his travels have taught him an important lesson—you don't need stuff to be happy. "In China, you have people living in the city, kind of in the poor areas, and they're still just happy. They help you out, talk to you."
Dax's little brother McKane says he noticed the same thing. "They have so little. They have, like, a rock and a stick, yet they're just so happy, and it's like impossible to disappoint them," he says. "They're just amazing."
Throughout their trip, the Andruses have found ways to save some money—like buying tents and camping in Africa. "I think most people would be surprised at how affordable it really can be if you're willing to make a few sacrifices along the way," Anne says.
The family doesn't have a set-in-stone itinerary for their trip, but they do have a basic outline of the countries they will visit. They appear on The Oprah Show via satellite from the summit of a mountain at their latest stop—Cape Town, South Africa. Next up is a layover in the Netherlands, and then they will travel to Turkey and meet up with Grandma and Grandpa.
Understandably, six people can't travel for that long together without getting a little cranky, but Anne says that's to be expected. "It's a challenge, but ultimately, we really feel like the kids and Tom and I have grown together, and our relationships are really benefiting from this," she says.