Houston & Peach

Q&A with Kelsey Hollis

Kelsey Hollis
Kelsey Hollis

Residence: Warner Robins

Occupation: Student, Miss Georgia’s Outstanding Teen

Q: You’ve been Miss Georgia’s Outstanding Teen for almost half a year and have a special local event coming up. What?

A: I’ll be grand marshal for this year’s Warner Robins Christmas Parade Dec. 3. I’ve lived in Warner Robins my whole life and grown up watching or being in about all of them so when they asked me I thought it was really cool.

Q: Been practicing your queenly parade wave?

A: No — I just wave! I just flat out wave big.

Q: How has your title changed day-to-day life?

A: It’s helped me understand who’s important in my life and remember that every day I have to be my best.

Q: Where do you go to school?

A: I’m a senior at Houston County High School.

Q: And how old?

A: Sixteen.

Q: Sixteen? And a senior?

A: I started school early. I’ve always been youngest in my grade and didn’t get to drive and do other things until after everybody else. But it’s helped me grow up. It can be frustrating, but I think it will pay off in a few years.

Q: You said you understand who’s important in your life. Who’s that? Why?

A: I realize I need to surround myself with people and friends who motivate me to be my best. People who help me stay focused on goals like college and people that I can help motivate toward their goals, too. It’s easy to lose track of your real purpose, especially when you get really busy. I stay pretty busy.

Q: What are your goals?

A: I’m hoping to go to the University of Alabama and become a broadcast journalist. Sports broadcasting. Maybe minor in music. But I’m good at picking winning teams, analyzing sports and what teams are doing. I was team manager for our football team.

Q: Really? That’s a little surprising because here you are —16, Miss Georgia’s Outstanding Teen and definitely a girly-girl.

A: People are always surprised I can throw a football. The real thing is my dad and I have always watched sports together. I love watching sports. Everybody else in my family just shuts the door and my dad and I go crazy watching. Always have.

Q: If you could broadcast any event tomorrow, what would you want to do?

A: An Alabama game. I’d love to be on the sideline asking questions. And I love the way Nick Saban coaches and how the team is structured.

Q: Who are your parents?

A: Ralph and Talenthea Hollis. They are awesome. My mom encouraged me to do my first pageant in middle school.

Q: What impact has the title had on your senior year?

A: There are things I can’t do because of my title — like post pictures on Facebook in a bathing suit like everybody else does, things like that, but it’s a privilege to do what I get to do. It’s helped me mature and get things together at this point in my life. I’ve certainly learned how to juggle things and manage my time.

Q: How many appearances do you make a week?

A: About one a week and a couple on weekends. I have approval of what I do or don’t do, but if I say I’ll be somewhere I have to be there.

Q: What have been some highlights?

A: I got to go to the Miss America pageant and that was great. I’ve gotten to meet so many terrific people and perform at so many wonderful events, it’s hard to say.

Q: A worst?

A: Not really. I am invited to a rattlesnake festival and I’m feeling a little nervous about that. But visiting schools and hopefully having a positive impact on little kids and also getting to meet kids my own age has been great.

Q: Why do you think you were chosen?

A: First, I know it was God’s grace. Now I hope to be a blessing to others through it. But also, as a contestant you have to have a story. I was lucky I didn’t have to make one up and could be myself. I didn’t have to think up answers to questions because they came honestly right out of my life.

Q: You’re talking about your cause, or your platform as it’s called in the pageant. What’s that?

A: My older brother is autistic. He’s 18 and my platform is Autism Awareness: A Platform for Change. I’ve been able to use the opportunity to speak to that.

Q: You’ve talked about him being such a focus and you being out of the limelight due to his needs.

A: Yes, but he’s my best friend and love makes all the difference. Plus my parents are great. My mom always taught me that everybody is different and that being fair doesn’t mean everybody gets the same thing the same way. Everyone gets what’s best for them. That’s the way it was growing up.

Q: What do you tell people about autism?

A: One thing is it’s OK to reach out and be friendly to people with autism and their families. Some people are scared of the situation because they don’t know what to do or are afraid they’ll do something wrong. I say it’s OK to take a chance. Put yourself in the equation. If you do something wrong it’s not a big deal. It’s better to care and mess up than to be indifferent. Same with all disabilities.

Q: You’re in the spotlight now, how does it feel?

A: It’s an honor and definitely fun. I’ve gotten to be kind of a sister to others, like former Miss America Betty Cantrell. I was Miss Warner Robins’ Outstanding Teen when she was Miss Warner Robins. That’s been really cool and we keep in contact. She texted me when I won. I got to support her and she’s supporting me.

Q: What other titles have you had?

A: My first pageant was Miss Feagin Mill Middle School. My mom got me to do that and it really sparked me. There’ve been things like Teen Miss Houston County Forestry, Teen Miss Houston County Relay-for-Life, Miss Houston County High School when I was a freshman and three in the Miss America system: Miss Warner Robins’ Outstanding Teen, Miss Houston County’s Outstand Teen, and now, Miss Georgia’s Outstanding Teen. Being younger than everybody scared me for a while — and honestly still does sometimes, but I’ve come to understand everybody has different gifts and abilities and you just go with who you are. And I pray a lot.

Q: You have another special cause, something you started.

A: Three years ago I started an April Miss Houston County Queen of Summer Pageant for girls with disabilities. They don’t get much opportunity for things like that and it’s gone from nine to a couple dozen contestants. It’s a lot of work but it’s worth it.

Answers may have been edited for length and clarity. Compiled by Michael W. Pannell. Contact him at mwpannell@gmail.com.

Q&A with Kelsey Hollis

Residence: Warner Robins

Occupation: Student, Miss Georgia’s Outstanding Teen