Leanza was raised in the very small town of Big Stone Gap, VA until she moved to Jacksonville at the age of 13. In Jacksonville, she grew and flourished as a performer, working at the Alhambra Dinner Theater in several shows, from the age of 16. She also began working on television for the first time, at Channel 47, then WNFT. Leanza decided to begin competing in pageants in order to earn scholarship money to the college of her choice, Jacksonville University. Actually, it was her Mom's idea with Leanza kicking and screaming all the way. Mom's know best! While in college, she was afforded the opportunity to put on a fin and a set of shells and play the Little Mermaid at Disney's MGM Studios. Eventually, Leanza became Florida's first Miss America, winning the title of Miss America 1993. Championing the controversial cause of AIDS Awareness, Leanza is proud to have had the opportunity to speak out, raise money and make a difference at a time the disease was hardly being discussed. She lobbied on Capitol Hill for AIDS Education, met with the First Lady, and performed in nearly every state, always an advocate for people living with AIDS.
Her first job after giving up the crown was in Los Angeles, CA was at Entertainment Tonight, as a reporter and weekend host. Her other Television credits include Lifetime's New Attitudes, Fine Living Network's Tricks of the Trade, Melrose Place, CSI and Animal Planet. She made a return to the Alhambra stage in 2011 as Sister Amnesia in NUNSENSE. Her finest and most joyous accomplishment is being the proud mother of her two boys, Kai and Avery, ages 12 and 10.
Leanza is thrilled to be back home in Jacksonville and very happy to be working with the fine women of The Chat, and the crew at WTLV.
Best thing about life on the First Coast:
The people. We are a diverse community, in our beliefs, politics, ethnicities...we are a melting pot. And I do love the food. And the beaches. And sweet tea (you can't get that too often in Los Angeles!) so I guess I can't pick one best thing. It's all good!