A 2012 Wapakoneta High School graduate earned a top 10 finish last weekend competing for Miss Ohio.
Kelsey Barrett, 19, had already been selected by judges at the Miss Ohio Scholarship program to be among the top 10 competing for the crown when those in attendance at the event throughout the week also cast enough votes for her to earn the title for the “People’s Choice Award.” Since Barrett already was among the top 10, another young woman also got to advance.
Contestants garnering the most points in interview, talent, swimsuit and evening wear during preliminary competitions were selected among the top 10. This year was the first time the public could vote its favorite contestant into the Miss Ohio finals as well with the Graham Automall Peoples’ Choice Award.
In total, the daughter of Lisa and Jon Barrett, earned $1,750 in scholarships with her place in the competition, including the Jim Southward Award for volunteerism, named in memory of a dedicated volunteer with the program who recently passed away.
Barrett said to be selected for the award was an honor because the stage crew, of which Southward was a part, are some of the first people that come to mind when she thinks of how those she has gotten to know at the competition have become like family to her. Members of the crew even told her she was the first contestant who had ever helped them tear down afterward.
Representing Miss West Central Ohio, Barrett competed against 23 other contestants in the annual competition held in Mansfield throughout the week of June 15-22.
“It was what I wanted the first year,” Barrett said of her finish. “I want to be Miss Ohio, but I want to be so prepared. My only goal was to make the top 10. That was a huge accomplishment.”
Contestants arrived in the city days before the finals to take part in a variety of activities, from a fashion show and parade to a shoe-designing contest and serving as celebrity waitresses. They stayed in host homes while they were there.
As part of the competition, they were interviewed by judges, performed talents — for which Barrett sang “You’ll Never Walk Alone,” answered stage questions, and competed in swimsuits and evening wear. Throughout the competition, the contestants worked in conversations about their own individually chosen platforms. Barrett has maintained her “No’body’s’ Perfect” platform throughout her years competing.
“I will always have that platform,” said Barrett, who shared that judges also asked her about current events and politics and her Italian heritage during the interview portion of the competition.
Throughout the year, as part of the message Barrett is trying to send with her platform, she talks to fourth-grade girls about self esteem.
“It is my favorite thing to do,” Barrett said, explaining that she reminds the girls that nothing is perfect and everything has its flaws. “So many girls struggle with trying to be perfect. I let them know that it is something we all struggle with.”
The Ohio Northern University sophomore, who is pursuing a degree in musical theater, said she loved her experience competing for Miss Ohio for the first time.
“It’s really fun and you spend all week getting to know each other,” said Barrett, sharing that the week actually is a bit relaxing. “I felt spoiled all week.”
Barrett said she plans to continue to enter the competition as many times as she can, until she is 23 or 24.
“You can improve so much and only keep getting better doing it,” said Barrett, who first began her Miss Ohio experience as a teen contestant seven years ago when she was 12.
Barrett said she wants to make the world a better place and the skills she is gaining and the forum she has by competing in Miss Ohio are helping her achieve that.
After four years competing there she was named Miss Ohio Outstanding Teen in 2011.
“Those years give you the experience so you are much more prepared,” Barrett said.
Heather Wells, 23, of Warren, who roomed with Barrett during the competition, was selected as this year’s Miss Ohio and goes on to compete in the Miss America Scholarship Program, in Atlantic City, N.J., in September. It was Wells’ sixth and final time competing for the title.
Barrett thanked the community for its support, including a mural outside of Fern Hill Farmhouse, in downtown Wapakoneta.
“It was so kind, I love it,” Barrett said. “This is why I love coming from a close knit community. The support is unbelievable.”
She also thanked family and friends, including her brother, Zach, and Carrie Knoch, who have helped and supported her so much through the years and always shown up to watch her compete.
Barrett crowns a new Miss West Central Ohio on Aug. 3 at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center, in Van Wert, where contestants will have three opportunities — Miss West Central Ohio, Miss Crystal Lake and Miss Apple Blossom — to earn a title required to compete in the Miss Ohio competition in 2014.
As Barrett looks toward hopefully heading back to compete for Miss Ohio next year, she said she will continue to workout and maintain lifestyle changes to get her ready. She also plans to keep practicing her talent and do more community service.
Barrett is singing with the Lima Symphony to be broadcast live on TV and radio for an audience of 40,000 to 50,000 people on July 4 and then is to perform again in Van Wert on July 5. Next year she heads to England to perform with a symphony there.
Barrett admits that when she and her older sister, Jessica, got started with the scholarship program after competing in the “Dream Big” talent competition, in St. Marys, they had misconceptions about what it would be like.
“There is so much more depth to it than I thought,” Barrett said.
She said watching her sister, the passion came first, then the crown.
“It’s a method to reach others,” Barrett said, explaining how she has been able to spread the message of her platform even further because of her involvement in the scholarship program. “I still want to do more.”