Miss USA 2011 Alyssa Campanella. Photo: VALERIE MACON/AFP/Getty Images

When 21-year-old Alyssa Campanella was crowned this week as Miss USA 2011, her shimmering cascade of vibrant red hair broke the pageant mold of many a blond and brunette predecessor before her.

Yet this Manalapan, New Jersey native has a little secret: she's actually a natural blond.

As a high school sophomore, it was the opportunity to play Cherry Valance -- a saucy character so named for her flaming cherry-colored locks -- that inspired Campanella to first dye her hair red.

And she has never looked back.

"Every girl has something that is unique and special about them, that separates them from everyone else," Campanella tells StyleList. "You'll know it when you hit it. I knew I hit it with red hair. I was quiet and reserved as a blonde -- but it's like the red hair immediately unleashed this fiery personality I had inside."

Though mom took the future pageant queen to a professional colorist that first time, Campanella has dyed her own hair ever since. After experimenting with different brands and formulas, the redhead says she favors drugstore color by L'Oréal.

But let's make one thing clear: it takes some grit to attain that perfect shade of rouge. Just ask Aura of Color Makes All the Difference--the blogger and colorist has a great eye for hard-to-attain hues.

"When I dye my hair red, you'd swear I murdered someone in my bathroom. I'm messy, and it's splattered everywhere. I call it the 'crime scene bathroom,'" laughs Campanella.

Attributing the distinctive shade as part of her success as a model and pageant queen, Campanella says the hue is something that you can pull off if your personality is most importantly a fit first.

While it's best to consult with a professional to determine the perfect shade to accentuate your skin tone and coloring, here are some helpful tips the newly crowned Miss USA shared with me on how to sizzle in red, Jessica Rabbit-style.

Take baby steps. A shock of red can be a scary cliff jump right into color. The easiest way to discover if you like the tone first before committing to a deep shade is to try a sheer wash-out tint. "A red tint on a natural brunette looks beautiful, like a hint of auburn," says Campanella. Blonds may instead want to experiment with a light strawberry for a light kiss of color.

Use semi-permanent hair color. Red washes out faster than other hair colors, which causes most redheads to process their hair more often than other shades. Campanella swears by semi-permanent color -- which contains little to no ammonia, peroxide or other developer chemical -- so that freshening up a dye job is more gentle and forgiving on her tresses.

Plan for some natural fading. If you want your hair color to look brighter for a special occasion -- or perhaps softer for a more conservative situation -- a little advanced planning is in order. "Those first few days after I dye my hair, it's like this big red pow!" says Campanella. "But by the next week, it settles down into a calmer color."

Wash your hair less. To preserve that perfect red hue, the pageant queen washes her hair every two days -- a habit that doubles as a plus for hair health, too. "Dry shampoo is the best invention! I use it between washings. I've learned from my work as a model that hair actually styles and looks better dirty," says Campanella. Be sure to brush dry shampoo out thoroughly after application, so that you don't leave behind any tell-tale white powder.

Look to the seasons for tone guidance. Red can range the gamut in intensity, and Campanella says that the amount of sunshine she is exposed to determines which way she swings. "In the summer with more sun exposure, your hair is going to fade, so I keep it a lighter strawberry blond in warm weather so that it's less maintenance," says Campanella. Come cold weather, the queen goes for a deeper burgundy red, which also looks richer against classic fall and winter wardrobe palettes.

Experiment with a touch of green eye makeup. While Miss USA's natural hazel eyes are a beautiful complement to her red tresses, Campanella says eyes of any shade can enjoy the flattering nuance with a touch of eyeliner. "Use a hint of green eyeliner on the bottom rim of your eyes. It looks gorgeous with red hair," says Campanella. If you like the look, you can intensify the effect by applying an emerald or hunter green gel eyeliner on the top lash line instead.

Clothes can make red hair pop. The Miss USA 2011 pageant marked the first time Campanella sashayed in green for the evening gown competition. Though it turned out to be a winning choice, the beauty queen was initially hesitant. "With the green dress and red hair, I was afraid I was going to look like a Christmas tree!" confides Campanella. Yet it was styling knowledge gained on modeling jobs that encouraged her to go green. "The experts always put me in purple, greens and ivories for photos so that my hair color pops! But be careful of red on red. The deeper your hair color, the trickier it can be to pull off without clashing," advises Campanella.

While the rest of us will enjoy lazy beach days and barbeque burgers this summer, Campanella will be busy training for the Miss Universe 2011 pageant that will take place on September 12 in São Paulo, Brazil. The contender plans to sport her signature red tresses, with beloved CHI Flat Iron in tow as strategy to beat the city's infamous humidity that is known to hover around 89 percent.

And there's something else the pageant queen plans to add to her entourage: a runway coach.

"I want to show all those Latina girls my own fierce walk!" says Campanella.

Now those sound like the words of a winner to me.

Want more pageant queen beauty tips? Check out how Miss America gets ready for prime time in minutes.

Watch the winning moment again in the video below.