Gatlinburg-Pittman sophomore Kelly Champagne competes to be Miss Tennessee Teen USA

Oct. 04, 2013 @ 12:03 PM

In 2010, Kelly Champagne was named Sevier County Fairest of the Fair. This week she is competing to be Miss Tennessee Teen USA.

“Most definitely, it’s a big step up,” said Kelly, 15, a 10th grader at Gatlinburg-Pittman High School. “I’m so excited for it.”

The pageant takes place Oct. 3-5 at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville. Kelly is among 46 contestants in the pageant, which is open to girls age 14 to 18. They must have lived in Tennessee for at least six months. The winner will compete for the Miss Teen USA title.

Kelly and the others will be judged in three categories: swimsuit, interview and evening gown. Her gown is by Tony Bowls, a designer of pageant wear. “It’s champagne-colored,” Kelly said. “That goes great with the last name.”

The daughter of Steven and Stacy Champagne, Kelly attends St. Mary Catholic Church in Gatlinburg. At Gatlinburg-Pittman, she plays volleyball and performs on the dance team, and her classmates elected her their homecoming representative. She belongs to the Deca and Interact clubs, and she is starting a student organization called Confidence Academy.

“That’s about giving students the tools they need to succeed in the world,” Kelly said of Confidence Academy. “We’ll have different speakers, different opportunities.”

School officials “really seem to like the idea,” she said.

For young women, pageants are “a big confidence builder,” Kelly said. “Not many girls have the opportunity to stand in front of so many people and speak and walk with confidence.”

In addition, Kelly said, “Pageants are great for volunteering.” Kelly’s volunteer efforts include her work with Fort Campbell’s Little Soldier Tree program, which provides toys to children of service members. She also volunteers at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

After high school, Kelly would like to study at Vanderbilt University and pursue investment management, like her father. “I have set the bar high,” she said.

This week Clarksville also hosts the Miss Tennessee USA pageant, in which women age 18 to 26 compete. Both Miss Tennessee USA and Miss Tennessee Teen USA are part of the Miss Universe organization, a Donald Trump venture.

“Our goal is to build self-confidence and help girls speak to what they believe in, find causes they can have a platform for,” said pageant coordinator Martha Ellen Christopher.

Pageantry is a Champagne family affair. “My mom was in pageantry,” Kelly said. And, she noted, her sister Alyssa was named Sevier County Fairest of the Fair the year after Kelly won the honor.

“I got to crown my sister,” Kelly said. “It was a special moment.”

kburns@themountainpress.com