Leader Blues

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

TOP STORY >>Miss Arkansas to compete in national pageant on TV

Leader staff writer

Lieut. Kelly George of Little Rock Air Force Base, Miss Arkansas USA, will leave Arkansas for her childhood home state next Wednesday for the Miss USA competition in California. The 56th annual Miss USA competition will be aired Friday, March 23 on NBC live from the Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles, where the Oscars are held each year.

“This in the only pageant I’ve ever done that my parents haven’t had to fly out for,” George said. Her immediate family lives in California and the entire family will be in attendance for the event.

George, the former Miss Air Force 2003, is in the final stages of preparation for the competition and will hold a private, invitation-only send-off party with a fashion show and silent auction at Little Rock Air Force Base tomorrow night. With just one week left before she boards the plane for California, the 24-year-old commissioned officer in the Air Force said her schedule is full with Miss Arkansas USA appearances, preparing for competition, and working in the public affairs department as the deputy chief of the 314th Airlift Wing’s Strategic Information Flight at LRAFB.

“It’s pretty crazy right now. I’ve been making lots of appearances,” she said. “I’m still getting my gowns fitted, continuing to exercise, working – I’ve got a full plate right now,” George said, adding she took the semester off from school because she knew she would not have time to devote to classes. That fact that she’s in the Air Force might give her an edge in the competition; she’s the only contestant to ever be in the military.

Winning the Miss Arkansas USA pageant in October allowed her to represent the Air Force in a positive way, breaking stereotypes about women in pageants and women in the military, something she hopes will carry over in this competition.
“They will see that I am a professional and have a different side than what they (the judges) will see,” George said.
“It’s what makes someone stand out and it might make them look forward to talking to me and seeing how being an officer in the military complements pageant life and vice versa,” she said.

Working in public affairs at LRAFB has helped prepare her for competition, she said.

“It has worked both ways actually, in a complementary sense,” George said. “The interview is tough (in competition). They want to see how you might react with national media at a press conference. Being in media relations helps me to be more comfortable with cameras and to maintain awareness in my environment.”

George and the other 50 contestants will be judged in three categories: swimsuit, evening gown and interview. Sherri Hill for Jovani designed George’s evening gown for her in New York City.

“It’s custom made and designed with crystal beads and velvet, the heaviest materials that you can make a dress out of,” George said. Evening gowns designed by Hill have been worn by Jennifer Berry and Tara Elizabeth to capture their crowns at the Miss America and Miss USA national pageants in 2006.

All contestants will receive their swimsuits upon arrival in California. “We’ll get our swimsuit that first day after checking-in and also take pictures for the program book,” George said.

Having a job in the military, George cannot just take off work. She had to work out months in advance to be absent for the competition.

“While gone for the competition, I will be on permissive TDY (temporary duty),” George said. Her permissive TDY was authorized by Gen. William Looney, commander of Air Education and Training Command (AETC) at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas. Looney is LRAFB commander Brig. Gen. Kip Self’s boss. A permissive TDY means the military won’t pay the travel costs, but the time is not counted against leave.

If George is crowned Miss USA 2007, the paperwork has already been completed to allow her one year off from the Air Force to fulfill the duty of Miss USA. The last Miss Arkansas to win the Miss USA crown was Terri Utley of Cabot in 1982.