Not your average beauty queen

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By Kirsten Laskey

Ellen Kress, a 2009 Los Alamos High School graduate, has always had a knack for being on the stage. She helped run the Olions this year and took part in several productions. On Wednesday, Kress is going a step higher than just limelight. She is reaching for the crown.

Kress will carry the title of Miss New Mexico in the Miss National U.S. Scholarship Pageant. The competition will be held Friday in New Orleans. Miss National U.S. is a new organization; it was established in 2007.

Brittney Dimes, vice president and executive director, explained she and Martha Kennerson, founder and president of the scholarship pageant, wanted to fill the void left by pageants that offered scholarships but did little in community service.

As a result, contestants are required to fulfill a certain number of community service hours and they will participate in Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans.

Additionally, the pageant winner is expected to perform community outreach.

“We understand everyone has a choice to go the traditional pageant route,” Dimes said. “(We encourage young women to) participate in this competition because we really do encompass it all. Each of our delegates is like family. When they become Miss National U.S., they become part of the Miss National U.S. Pageant Scholarship family.”  

Through the pageant, Dimes said, contestants develop leadership skills, develop their community service and grow as individuals.

“We want to help them reach their full potential,” she said.

Kress, according to Dimes, is well on her way. “Miss Ellen Kress has represented her state very well so far,” she said.

Getting into the competition, Kress said, was a surprise. Because the competition is new, Kress said she just applied online in July as an at-large-delegate. Then two weeks later, she received a letter congratulating her on becoming Miss New Mexico.

“I couldn’t believe my eyes,” Kress said.

She said she wanted to participate in the competition to do something different and dispel some of the conventional notions of pageant contestants.

“It was some kind of different experience that I was craving,” she said. “I love to do theatre. I helped to run the Olions organization this year, and I love being competitive. I thought this was a great way to combine both loves into one event. I’m also out to prove that a beauty queen doesn’t have to be super tall and skinny to win. A five-foot-four-and-a-half girl with a funky short hair cut can do just as much good as a traditional Miss USA.”

As Miss New Mexico, Kress will compete in a traditional evening gown, swimsuit and interview competition.

“I’ve enjoyed the fact that this organization really gives back to the community,” Kress said. “Over the past year I’ve gotten the chance to participate in almost 90 hours of community service right here in this county. It’s been great fun watching people’s eyes light up as they find out that they have their very own Backyard Beauty Queen.”

Kress will compete against 15 finalists and she hopes to make it to the top five.

She added, “I hope to gain a sense of what being a beauty queen is all about, when all is said and done. I also have become very proud of my accomplishments through community service, and I wish this was an outlet for more girls like me to give back.”

If Kress takes the crown, she will receive a $5,000 cash scholarship, a summer internship at Super Models Unlimited Magazine, a contract with a talent agency and a multi-page spread in Super Models Unlimited Magazine.

If the community would like to support Kress, they can visit www.missnationalus.com and vote for her in the People’s Choice section. If people are interested in seeing Kress in the pageant, they can go to niftytv.com to view the contest.