Jade Kenny is still in shock at becoming Miss Maryland.
"I honestly never really thought it would happen," said Kenny, 23, who will go on to compete in the 88th Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, N.J., on Sept. 14.
Competing in the Miss Maryland pageant 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 to earn scholarship money for college. She graduated from the University of Alabama in May with a degree in sports broadcasting, and she now 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.
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.
You're from the Eastern Shore. What should Baltimoreans know about that area that they don't already? What would surprise people about that area?
Growing up on the Eastern Shore of Maryland has taught me that you have to work hard for things you want in life. I want the people of Baltimore to understand that. Most people make their living being watermen and catching crabs on the Chesapeake Bay. Baltimoreans should be surprised by their pride. I've been surprised by how much love and support I have received from this area. They are extremely supportive of a small-town girl capturing the Miss Maryland crown.
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 that 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.
Miley Cyrus has become one of our most controversial celebrities. What do you think of her?
It is extremely unfortunate the path that Miley Cyrus has gone down. I admire the success of her career, but it concerns me that she is not taking the responsibility that comes with being a role model seriously. She has a major following with being a Disney star, and I hope she takes that into consideration with some of her choices.