Jade Kenny is the new Miss Maryland

Jade Kenny is the new Miss Maryland (Handout photo / July 2, 2014)

Jade Kenny is still in shock over winning Miss Maryland 2014.

“I honestly never really thought it would happen,” said Kenny, 23, who represented Allegany County in the pageant and will go on to compete in the 88th Miss America pageant in Atlantic City in September.

Competing in Miss Maryland for the fourth time, Kenny won the evening gown and interview portions of the pageant and tied for first place in the talent portion, during which she did a ballet routine set to C+C Music Factory’s “Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now).”

Kenny grew up on the Eastern Shore in Madison and began competing in pageants when she was 13 in order to earn scholarship money for college. She graduated from University of Alabama last May with a degree in sports broadcasting, and she currently lives in Silver Spring and works in advertising and marketing at CBS Sports.

“I’m the first Miss Maryland coming from the Eastern Shore since the 1970s,” Kenny said. “It’s exciting to be able to represent those people.”

Kenny said that despite mainstream portrayals of pageants on shows such as “Toddlers and Tiaras” that tend to focus on superficiality, the Miss America system and its subsidiaries stress leadership over looks.

“In reality, these are intelligent women who have amazing careers,” she said. “We are judged on who we are as people.”

A self-proclaimed “small-town girl,” Kenny said she’s nervous to put her skills to the test in front of a national audience. Nonetheless, she’s excited to compete in Miss America and make Maryland proud.

“I am looking forward to serving the entire state of Maryland even after September,” she said.

In order to help Kenny prepare for the Miss America pageant, we asked her a few pageant-type questions, some of which might sound familiar from past competitions:

Why do you deserve to be Miss America?

I believe that I am extremely passionate about my platform. It’s something that I’ve been working with since I was 13 years old. It’s the Rainbows organization that helps children deal with grief that comes from any life crisis. I lost my best friend and my grandparents at a very young age and dealt with grief head on, and ever since then I’ve been helping children deal with the side effects that come from it. I think I deserve it more than other girls because I actually live and breathe my platform, and I have for the last 10 years. Something I can really bring to the table as Miss America is being able to incorporate that across the country.

Government tracking of phone records has been in the news lately. Is this an invasion of privacy or necessary to keep our country safe?

I think it’s extremely necessary to keep our country safe. I think that it’s the government’s job to protect us, and that is what, at the end of the day, we need as Americans. As long as you have nothing to hide I don’t think it’s an invasion of privacy.

Why do you think one-fifth of Americans can't find the United States on a map?

Oh gosh. That’s like the worst pageant question ever in the history of YouTube. Honestly, I think it’s just education. It’s not something has been instilled in elementary schoolers at a young age. Geography and looking at a map should be something that we are taught in kindergarten so that it stays with us.

Which is a bigger worry: wrinkles or cellulite?

Probably for me wrinkles. I feel like wrinkles will happen on your face. That’s kind of like your first impression. It’s really hard to cover that up, and cellulite you can hide.