Hill beauties make room for new class

The Hill has already begun sifting through photos, reading elaborate pitches and scouting congressional cafeterias for this year’s 50 Most Beautiful People list, which will be published this summer.

But before we look ahead, we look back one more time at a few past 50 Most Beautiful beauties to hear what the experience was like for them, what they’re up to now and whether they have any advice for the new class of capital lookers.

Tulani Elisa — A beauty on the move

Tulani Elisa left town after she found out she was The Hill’s No.1 pick in its 2008 50 Most Beautiful list.

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Her departure was merely coincidental — the list happened to come out on the day the former legislative assistant for Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) was packing her car to return to her hometown of Boston to begin graduate school at Tufts University.

But it didn’t matter how far she traveled from Capitol Hill; she has yet to escape what she calls the “little 15 minutes of fame” that the list brought her.

The congressman called her after the list came out to congratulate her — and to attempt to lure her back.

“He said, ‘Well, whenever you’re ready, the halls of Congress are waiting for you to come back and wear your crown,’ ” she recalls with a laugh.

Meanwhile, she thought she could slip into anonymity once she began classes at Tufts’s Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. No such luck. One of her former colleagues, a staffer in Markey’s district office, had a friend starting at Tufts with Elisa, so word of her prize-winning beauty leaked — but it didn’t spread too far, she says.

“I kept the 50 Most Beautiful talk down to a minimum,” she says. It was only at the end of the academic year that one of her professors, after Googling Elisa’s name, found out about her reign atop the list of congressional beauties.

“So, I saw this very interesting article,” Elisa says the professor told her.

Elisa came back to Washington for a quick visit in the middle of the school year and stopped by Capitol Hill. When one of the security guards she’d befriended spotted her back in Congress, he begged Elisa for her autograph, much to her amusement.

Otherwise, Elisa is happy to report she enjoyed her first year in graduate school and was able to stay relatively healthy. For her 50 Most Beautiful article, she told The Hill about her bad luck with trips, falls and other injuries — including a tumble on a Metro escalator, a broken ankle and toe, a chipped tooth and a sprained shoulder.

“I managed to stay accident-free this year,” she says. “I’ve had a few burns and bumps, but other than that, I’ve been OK.”

Elisa has another year of school to go but recently was in Washington getting a yellow-fever shot and making other preparations for her summer internship at the U.S. embassy in Sierra Leone. She misses the capital and says the city might see her again after she graduates.

In the meantime, Elisa has these words of advice for the people who make it onto The Hill’s 2009 50 Most Beautiful list: Have fun with it, and don’t take it too seriously.

Elisa read many of the blogs that pick up on the list “with a grain of salt,” she says. She let most of the commentary roll off her back.

(There was one quip from the blogosphere, however, that she would like to answer: Someone wrote that her photo made it look like she has “cankles,” or pudgy ankles that become indistinguishable from the calves. Not fair, she says, because the prominent ankle in the photo is the one she broke, and it never healed properly.)

Elisa will be dethroned this summer and will again be out of town for the occasion. It’s been a good year, she says, but this beauty is on to bigger and better things.

“It’s been very flattering,” she says.

Emily Zammit — Rapunzel lets down her office

Emily Zammit came in at No. 8 on last year’s 50 Most Beautiful list, but apparently that wasn’t good enough for her demanding erstwhile colleagues in Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart’s (R-Fla.) office.

In 2005, Zammit’s co-worker Miguel Mendoza was No. 3 on the list. Zammit’s colleagues teased her for failing to outrank Mendoza.

But she says the congressman was impressed.

“He was like, ‘Wow, two in one office,’ ” she says.

The article written about Zammit had the headline “Rapunzel, Rapunzel” and focused largely on her lush brown hair — another teasing point for her friends and family.

“Yeah, I got a lot of flak for it, especially because the hair was such a focus,” she says. “But it was all in good fun. A lot of people were like, ‘Uh, wow, you’re that girl.’ ”

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Zammit still works in Washington but now does government relations for the Florida-based law firm Tew Cardenas. To her surprise, Zammit’s 50 Most Beautiful status followed her in her private-sector job search.

At one point an interviewer brought up that Zammit had been on the list.

“It was embarrassing at first,” she recounts, but the interviewer brought it up because “that person was on it, too.” Instant icebreaker!

Her advice for the new 50 Most Beautiful crew is similar to Elisa’s: “Just have fun with it. Don’t take it seriously.”

Luis Fortuño — The glamorous gov

Former Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Luis Fortuño (R), a 2006 entry in the The Hill’s 50 Most Beautiful list, no longer walks the halls of Congress. He’s on to the red carpets.

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Fortuño won the Puerto Rico governor’s race last year but returned to Washington for President Obama’s inauguration. At the Latino Inaugural Gala in January, Fortuño strode down the red carpet alongside the likes of Jennifer Lopez, Marc Anthony, Rosie Perez and international music star Paulina Rubio.

“I really enjoyed D.C.,” he told The Hill at the time. Fortuño said he misses working in the U.S. capital but was looking forward to challenging himself in the Puerto Rico governor’s office.

He might not have known then what was coming for him. Tens of thousands of people took to the streets in protest earlier this month in response to Fortuño’s plan to lay off 30,000 government employees. Perhaps his 50 Most Beautiful-worthy good looks will calm the masses.