'Miss Congeniality' scene-stealer Heather Burns is always here to remind us that April 25 is 'the perfect date'

The classic line, chosen to honor the birthday of the director's wife, "gets a little bigger" each year.

·3-min read
William Shatner and Heather Burns in 'Miss Congeniality' (Warner Bros.)
William Shatner and Heather Burns in Miss Congeniality. (Photo: Warner Bros.)

The 2000 action-comedy Miss Congeniality was a star vehicle in the truest sense for Sandra Bullock, the Speed and Practical Magic actress who flaunted her comedic chops in an unforgettable turn as an uncouth FBI agent who goes deep undercover as a beauty pageant contestant.

But the film’s most famous line belongs to one of Bullock's co-stars — and it wasn't one of the bolder-faced, like Michael Caine or Benjamin Bratt or William Shatner or Candice Bergen.

It's from Heather Burns, who plays Cheryl Frasier — aka Miss Rhode Island.

"Describe your perfect date," Miss United States host Stanley Fields (Shatner) instructs Cheryl during an onstage interview session.

"It's a tough one," Cheryl giggles uncomfortable before dropping this gem: "I'd have to say April 25. Because it's not too hot, not too cold. All you need is a light jacket."

Miss Rhode Island is way off-course — Stan's colloquial use of "perfect date" obviously refers to a romantic outing. But one of the reasons the joke works so well is because, as far as her misinterpretation goes, Cheryl makes a great point: The end of April is generally beautiful, weather-wise, in most parts of the country.

It’s no wonder Cheryl winds up winning Miss United States at the end of the movie (spoiler alert) — with Bullock's special agent Gracie Hart (who saves Cheryl from a detonating tiara) being named first runner-up.

That also allowed Burns to return for the 2005 sequel Miss Congeniality: Armed and Fabulous as Miss United States.

As for April 25, there's a very good reason for that specific date to be the subject of Cheryl's reply: director Donald Petrie has admitted that he changed the date from the script to honor his wife's birthday.

Speaking to E! News, Burns, 48, says she can't escape from the iconic scene — and that's a good thing. "I love it. It seems to each year get a little bigger even.

"And it's such a nice day for me because people come out of the woodwork sending me memes and things. And I go around town … people give me free coffee and, you know, it's just everyone's kind of happy to see me on that day."

Burns also admits to E! News that she has little in common with Cheryl. She had to dye her hair blond because her natural hair color was too similar to Bullock's. She got a coach to help her learn to twirl and a stand-in (a student from the University of Texas, Austin) handled the flaming batons. What about her ties Rhode Island? "I have no connection to that state, except I think some of my ancestors came there in the 1600s."

In 2022, Burns celebrated her iconic line with a post on Instagram. "Wishing everyone love, light, and a PERFECT DATE!" Burns wrote in a caption to a photo from the film featuring herself and Bullock.

<em>Miss Congeniality</em> scene-stealer Heather Burns <a data-i13n="cpos:1;pos:1" href="https://www.instagram.com/p/Ccx0sXYOBbo/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:took to Instagram on April 25;cpos:1;pos:1;elm:context_link;itc:0" class="link ">took to Instagram on April 25</a> to wish "everyone love, light, and a PERFECT DATE!" (Photo: Instagram/Heather Burns)
Miss Congeniality scene-stealer Heather Burns took to Instagram on April 25 to wish "everyone love, light, and a PERFECT DATE!" (Photo: Instagram/Heather Burns)

For the film's 20th anniversary, Shatner cheekily partnered with Match for a contest to find people's perfect dates — the romantic, as opposed to calendar, kind.

Burns's other movie credits include You’ve Got Mail, Two Weeks Notice (also with Bullock), Bewitched and Manchester by the Sea.

She's married to actor Ajay Naidu, who owns plenty of iconic lines himself from his role as Samir Nagheenanajar in the 1999 cult classic Office Space.

Editor's note: A version of this story was originally published April 25, 2022.