Before heading to compete in a national pageant, a 17-year-old Wapakoneta High School senior gave her local community a preview of what she would be presenting to the nation next week.
Miss Ohio’s Outstanding Teen Kelsey Barrett modeled her competition wardrobe, performed her talent, and shared some insight into her platform and passions with community members for a send-off party on Sunday at Wapakoneta Elementary School. Miss Ohio 2011 Ellen Bryan, of Celina, served as the mistress of ceremonies and a raffle of donated items raised money to purchase self-esteem resources to further promote Kelsey’s platform.
“It is a dream come true,” Kelsey said thanking the community for its support. “It’s nothing I grew up thinking I wanted, but once I had it I realized how much it means to me.
“It changes your life,” she said. “I’m focusing on this rather than the other things I could be getting wrapped up in in high school. I’m proud to have stayed drug and alcohol free and abstinent.”
She thanked her mother for the good example she has set.
Taking to the stage to sing her state-award winning talent, “Here’s Where I Stand” from the movie “Camp,” it was clear what was most important about the national scholarship pageant to Kelsey.
“It’s OK to just be me,” Kelsey told the Wapakoneta Daily News in an interview before leaving today for the Miss America Outstanding Teen competition in Orlando, Fla. “It’s not just about looks or appearance.
“There’s so much more to it,” she said. “To me, it’s nothing about that, it’s about poise, intelligence, kindness and being well spoken.”
Kelsey said all the things she is today she’s become through personal development she has undergone preparing for the pageants.
While Kelsey was old enough she could have competed in the Miss Ohio pageant, Kelsey said she still sees herself as a teen “with a bubbly personality.”
The national event begins with all 53 contestants, divided into three groups, competing in preliminaries next week on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. On Aug. 19, they will attend a special dinner and then the top 10 are to be announced on Aug. 20, with the finalists competing against each other later that day.
“It’s funny that to get ready for it you’re practicing to be yourself, but you still get nervous,” Kelsey said.
With scores on interviews, sports and activewear, talent, evening gowns and onstage questions tallying up to determine the finalist, Kelsey said she’s hoping to be back competing in all the same events again on Saturday.
“It doesn’t really matter what you wear,” Kelsey said. “When it comes down to it, it’s about you.”
“If I don’t come back with a new crown, I’ll come back with Minnie Mouse ears,” Kelsey said of the trip to Orlando to compete.
After competing for several years before winning at the state level, Kelsey said she can either look at it as having taken a long time to get there or being lucky because she was never this ready before.
“I see it as a blessing,” Kelsey said.
In previous years competing in Ohio, she was named second runner-up twice and first runner-up last year.
“I’ve realized who I am and who I want to be,” Kelsey said. “Every day I’m taking steps toward being that person.”
It took a while but she said she realized that’s all the judges want to see.
“They just want you to be you,” Kelsey said. “There’s nobody else like you.”
It’s a message she also promotes to girls through her platform, No-Body’s Perfect, which focuses on the effect of media on teens’ self-esteem and body image.
After high school, Kelsey would like to go into performance, first possibly studying somewhere such as the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, but she plans to audition anywhere she can.
Growing up, Kelsey said she wanted to become a singer to tell her message through songs, but through her motivational speeches as Miss Ohio’s Outstanding Teen she has been able to spread the important message of self acceptance by talking with people.
Once she’s in college, Kelsey also plans to return to the pageant circuit by entering the Miss Ohio competition, but after taking at least a year off first.
Once school starts this fall, Kelsey plans to begin visiting classrooms and reaching out to young girls again, this time across the state through her public appearances.
Kelsey reminds herself as well that it’s OK if she’s not what judges are looking for in a particular competition or a particular year.
When she started entering the contest at age 13, she went into it for the fun of it, she said noting her inspiration was her older sister, Jessica.
“I also do this for the girls who need to hear they are beautiful and special,” Kelsey said talking about growing up feeling that way herself. “Everyone goes through it. You can lose sight of who you really are. I feel it’s my responsibility to help them remember.”
Part of her platform also includes hanging posters throughout the community, one featuring her mother, and another featuring several children, as she promotes the diversity of beauty and that everyone is perfect just the way they are.
“I feel the pressure every other girl feels, I’m just like them,” Kelsey said. “The crown gets their attention, but it’s nothing about who I am.”