Six years ago in 2013, Seymour’s Megan Kelly held the title of Miss Teen Missouri United States.
In the interim, she became a 2014 graduate of Seymour High School, earned a bachelor of science degree in strategic communications from Stephens College in Columbia, as well as a minor in international business from Westminster College in London, England.
Now she’s Miss Missouri USA 2020.
That crown was earned by the 23-year-old Kelly on Sunday, Dec. 1, during a four-day competition held in Columbia that included 60 other contestants from throughout Missouri between the ages of 18 and 26.
Next up, Kelly will compete for the title of Miss USA 2020, which will be nationally televised next summer. If she wins that title, she’ll compete for Miss Universe.
But her story began nearly a decade ago when she began competing in the statewide teen competitions, then aged out of the contests.
“I graduated high school, went to college, graduated from college, then decided to take a year off to save money for law school,” Kelly explained. “During this (year off), I’ve worked here at the family business (Dynomite Fireworks in Seymour), which allowed me to have the time to pursue this goal to compete for Miss Missouri 2020.”
The competition arrived late last month in Columbia at the four-day pageant that began Friday, Nov. 29, and continued through Monday, Dec. 2.
It began with a one-on-one judge’s interview with each of the contest’s five judges, which lasted three minutes.
Next was the fitness (swimsuit) competition, followed by an on-stage introduction.
The field then was narrowed to 15.
A gown competition followed, where the field was again narrowed to five after it concluded.
The final step was on-stage questions for each of the five finalists. One was a contestant question (pulled from a fish bowl) while the other was a judge’s question.
Then came the announcement of the winners.
Kelly learned she won the People’s Choice (or Warriors For Ross) Award.
She won the swimsuit award.
She won the interview award.
“I knew my chances (of winning) were pretty good at that point,” Kelly said with a smile.
Finally, the fourth runner-up was named, followed by the third and second runners-up.
And Kelly was one of the final two standing.
Then her name was announced as the winner.
“It was a great feeling,” she said. “Really, what I felt the most was blessed.
“I went into this pageant with such a peace ... I’ll admit that I was very confident. If I didn’t win, I knew that I had given it my absolute best. Whichever way it went, I knew it was God’s will.”
Kelly said competing with that mindset made the competition much easier.
“I wasn’t nervous,” she said. “And I think that was the key, I really do. It was really just about being me ... being truthful.”
The competition had many rewards.
First and foremost, Kelly said she made many new friends from all over the state.
She also won a $38,000 scholarship if she chooses to go back to college and earn her master’s degree.
There was a $5,000 cash award.
Many other perks were given, including a competition evening gown, cosmetic items, dental-care awards and even free Lasik eye surgery.
“I’ll be busy over the next year,” she said. “There are lots of appearances that I’ll make as Miss Missouri USA 2020. And then there’s the Miss USA competition that arrives next summer.”
Regarding appearances, Kelly said she’s eager to make them.
“I’m open for any appearance requests,” she noted.
To make those requests, Kelly can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Should she win the Miss USA title, she will become a full-time employee for the organization, then will compete in the Miss Universe competition.
It’s been an amazing ride for a local girl who was just 15 years old when she competed in her first pageant.
“It’s a great opportunity for girls to get involved in,” Kelly concluded. “I strongly encourage it. In my instance, it took a girl from a small town to a lot of opportunities.
“It has helped me with employment ... the interview skills helped me a lot. I’ve got every single job I’ve ever applied for. The networking has been phenomenal — lots of connections have been made, lots of contacts. And probably the best thing has been the confidence earned through the entire process.”
When Kelly competed in Columbia, her entire family was present to see her crowned Miss Missouri USA 2020.
“That was the best part,” she concluded.
“Mom and Dad were there, my sister Claudia was there, and even my brother Tristan flew in from Idaho so he could be there. We’re a close family. And that’s what made it so special.
“We celebrated this as a family.”