In 1995, Menounos began to compete in beauty pageants. The following year, she won the title of Miss Massachusetts Teen USA and competed at Miss Teen USA where she failed to place.
Film and Television Career
Later Menounos attended Boston's Emerson College. During her senior year, she was hired as a reporter for Channel One News, known as the top news source for American students. Her work for Channel One's 10-minute segments included traveling to El Salvador to report on the earthquake of 2001 and interviewing President George W. Bush.
Entertainment Tonight hired Menounos as a correspondent in 2002, where she reported on movies, music and fashion. ET executives offered her a hosting gig for ET on MTV & VH1; she left the program in 2005 to focus on her acting career, though she would be joining rival program Access Hollywood later that Fall as a special correspondent.
In the summer of 2005, she appeared in the comic book film Fantastic Four, where she played a nurse who is romanced by the "Human Torch," played by Chris Evans. Her likeness and voice was featured in the 2005 Electronic Arts video game, From Russia with Love as Eva Adara, Red Grant's henchwoman, which stars Sean Connery as James Bond. She is also the spokesperson for Pantene hair products.
Menounos is a correspondent for the "Today Show" as well as "Access Hollywood" in an overall deal with NBC Universal to act in films and television shows. She also has recurring roles on Without a Trace and as Jools in the second season of the CW's One Tree Hill.
At the age of 17, Menounos produced "In the Land of Merry Misfits", independent film's first fairy tale. The 35mm feature film was produced by Menounos while attending Emerson College with director Keven Undergaro, then head writer for MTV's Singled Out. The negative of the film was stolen and the film was never completed but her work on the film, and the film's director, helped her land her reporting job at Channel One News and at MTV (ET on MTV). Menounos, however, never forgot the film or the film's director. In 2005 Menounos personally funded the recovery and restoration of the film. The movie is expected to be completed some time in 2006.
Menounos also directed "Longtime Listener" starring Wilmer Valderamma. The film is an official selection of the Tribecce Film Festival 2006.
Menounos appeared in FHM magazine and in People magazine in 2004 as one of the "50 Most Beautiful People". In another poll conducted by askmen.com, Menounos was voted one of the top five girls a guy would most want to marry,along with Angelina Jolie, Charlize Theron and Jessica Alba. She has also beaten Jessica Alba and Charlize Theron for "Cyber Vixen of the Year" on Spike TV's video game awards.
Menounos founded the charity "Take Action Hollywood!" after her trip to South Africa. Reporting on the devastating effects of the AIDS crisis she was inspired to create TAH!, a charity that utilizes the power of the entertainment industry and the medium of film to affect for positive social change. Maria also created the Cosmo Girl Cup, a national, annual competition and award given to the group of teens who do the most in their communities to affect for positive social change.
- Maria was given detention her senior year of high school for skipping school to go to a Red Sox game.
- Maria is a diehard fan of all Boston sports teams including the New England Patriots, the Boston Bruins the Boston Celtics and the Red Sox. Though she admits she is more of a fan of contact sports and thus her favorite teams are the Patriots and the Bruins.
- Maria is extremely ticklish, as proven on the Howard Stern show.
- It is rumored that she has or had a romance with Hollywood star Vin Diesel.
- At the 2004 Oscars she wore a diamond-studded dress worth more than $2.5 million.
- She had never heard of the Eurovision Song Contest until being asked to present it in 2006