The story below is from our December/November 2015 issue. For the DIGITALLY ENHANCED VERSION, download our FREE iOS app or view our digital edition for FREE today!
Miss Virginia of 30 years ago maintains the verve and energy that made her one of the most popular Miss Virginia winners ever.
The room still lights up when Lisa Aliff Greenleaf enters. That smile is still an airplane landing light and she still chatters like a cheerleader, happy and full of life. In 1983, she was on the cover of The Roanoker as the new Miss Virginia. In 1984, she watched onstage while Vanessa Williams became the first African-American Miss America.
The 30-plus years since have been eventful for the Roanoke native, who graduated from Cave Spring High and has lived in Salem for the past 20 years. She’s had a modest movie and TV career, lived in California, been divorced there and remarried here (to GE engineer Todd Greenleaf), and moved “home” to raise a now-25-year-old son, Lane Hawkins (a cop in Arlington who was to have been married in September). She is looking forward to being a grandmother, all the while taking mixed martial arts to remain in good physical condition. She throws an air-punch as she describes the action, smiling broadly.
Most recently, the 54-year-old (“I’m proud of it”) has embarked on a venture to tell the video story of the historic J-611, on which her late father was an engineer in days gone by. In fact, her father’s family was heavily involved with Norfolk & Western Railway for many years. A genuine railroad-town gal.
She grew up in pageants—dancing her way through—and won the Miss Virginia title at the Roanoke Civic Center in 1983. She was one of the more popular Miss Virginias in the pageant’s history and remains involved. She is vice president of the Margaret Baker Foundation. Baker was the long-time director of the pageant.
Greenleaf’s TV/movie career was brief and not especially distinguished, but it had a few high points, notably the movies “Dragnet” (1987, with Tom Hanks), “Playroom” (1989) and “Damned River” (1989). Among her guest appearances on TV shows were those on “Cheers” and “Full House.”
Back in Roanoke, she used her early childhood education degree to teach at the elementary, middle school and high school levels.
Her life is full, she says. “I’m in a really good place now.” One could not imagine otherwise for this delightful person.