Thursday, Aug. 27, 2015 | 11:57 p.m.
Gorgeous Katherine Kelley’s first job when she was 16 years old was reading the 4 p.m. news every day on her family’s small radio station in Madisonville, Ky. She wrote stories and edited wire service copy before going “On the Air.”
Now she’s possibly going to make headlines of her own as the first Miss Nevada to make the Top 10 in the 2015 Miss America Pageant on ABC from Atlantic City on Sept. 13.
Katherine, a 23-year-old high school mathematics teacher for Clark County School District, flies out Saturday from McCarran International Airport to compete against 51 other hopefuls.
“I’m trying not to get nervous, but it is a high-pressure situation,” she told me. “I’ve just about finished packing and making all the last-minute preparations. I’m getting excited now, but it will really hit when I land there and it feels official.
“We’ve got two weeks before the telecast with appearances, rehearsals and appearing next Tuesday on ‘Good Morning America. Our preliminary competitions start the following Tuesday (Sept. 8) through Thursday.
“We have our first-ever Miss America 9/11 military tribute concert on the Friday and our Show Us Your Shoes Parade on the Atlantic City Boardwalk on Saturday, then the 95th annual pageant in Boardwalk Hall on Sunday.
“That’s going to keep us very busy with 18- to 20-hour days. It means a lack of sleep, and I’ll need energy to keep up. It’s my first-ever visit to Atlantic City”
Katherine, who teaches math to 15- and 16-year-old students at Mojave High in North Las Vegas, also attends UNLV for her master’s in secondary education. “They are all excited for me,” she told me. “They are fascinated with the Miss America program and pageant and have voted for me on social media.”
She will play classical piano for the talent portion of the pageant. “I’ve been playing piano since I was 10 years old. I feel confident and comfortable with that part of the pageant.
“It’s having to articulate in two or three sentences on national television an answer to that unexpected question. I’m already telling myself to be true to myself, speak from my heart and remember my values. I’ll be honest, I don’t like going to the gym, so the swimsuit category worries me a little.
“Since winning the Miss Nevada title in December, I’ve grown up. I know that I talk every day in class, but since becoming Miss Nevada, I’ve been able to bring added energy and passion when speaking to crowds. People always want to talk to you as Miss Nevada, and I like to be genuine with everybody. Winning helped my ability to be charismatic with people.”
Katherine’s platform is “Every Day Counts: A Comprehensive Plan for Improving School Attendance.” She said: “I’ve been doing mock interviews with Miss Americas to really focus on my platform. I really want to do more with education in the future. It’s my passion. I’m not sure if that will be in the classroom or policy forum.
“I’ve been working with my piano coach and trainer twice weekly, so that routine keeps me sane amid the craziness. My parents are 100 percent behind me, and my mom flew in from Kentucky and is now here in Las Vegas to help me with last-minute things. They’ll be in Atlantic City to lend support.
“Nevada hasn’t had a representative in the Top 15 since the ’70s, so it’s on my shoulders. I want to make the Top 15 on my merit, but the girl who gets the most votes on social media is assured a Top 15 spot, so we’ve been doing a lot of that.
“I can’t begin to imagine the emotion if I’m still there when the Top Five are announced. I’d make peace with it if I didn’t win at that point. Whatever happens will be OK. Of course there would be disappointment, but I’d come back to Las Vegas very proud.
“The big difference between Miss Nevada and Miss America is what’s at stake. If you win Miss America, you take on a year of really awesome responsibilities. As Miss Nevada, I can still go the movies!”
Katherine, like all the 51 contestants, has to pack for the year’s eventuality of winning the Miss America crown.
“It’s tough getting everything into one suitcase and one carry on. We’ve managed the shoes, the makeup and girly things already. Fortunately, we have a partnership with designer Joseph Ribkoff, so dresses and wardrobe would be supplied while on the road for the year.”
Katherine is excited about meeting “The Bachelor” star Chris Harrison, who returns to host the pageant; singer Nick Jonas, who is providing the music for the swimsuit and evening gown categories; and the judging panel that includes Brett Eldredge, Zendaya, Amy Purdy, Kevin O’Leary and Taya Kyle.
“It’s great to be part of a show that celebrates women who are in college or graduated and striving to make the world a better place through their chosen platform, ranging from domestic violence and bullying to cancer research and female empowerment while also embracing beauty and fashion,” said Zendaya.
“I remember watching Miss America as a kid, so it’s an honor to help celebrate the 95th anniversary of the competition and select the next Miss America.”
Katherine, who enjoys hiking our Nevada state parks on weekends, says former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice inspires her.
“She came from a modest background and rose to be one of the most influential women in the world. Her success inspires me to continue my devotion to academics and music,” said Katherine, who also joined Teach for America Corps in 2014.
“As a teacher, I noticed poor attendance rates in high poverty area schools. I created my platform to minimize the effect of the barriers students face in receiving their education.
“I enjoy spending the day in the classroom instilling a love of mathematics in my students, and I plan to continue advocating for our nation’s children. My dream job would be to become secretary of education in Washington, D.C.”
Before moving to Las Vegas, she attended the University of Alabama, graduating cum laude and was a recipient of the dean’s award of merit and a member of the 31 most influential women on campaign, making the president’s list as a National Merit Scholar.
There’s no question that Katherine is brains and beauty — but, gentlemen, she has a serious boyfriend. Her beau is another math teacher who lives in Dallas. “We met in college while getting ready for our exams,” said Katherine.
“Thank goodness for Southwest’s direct flights between Las Vegas and Dallas. They’ve kept our romance alive letting us visit each other on weekends. He’ll be using his frequent-flyer reward points to come to Atlantic City for the finals.”
We’ll follow Katherine’s progress once she arrives in Atlantic City and have a report here at Vegas DeLuxe from her shortly before the pageant.
Robin Leach of “Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous” fame has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past 15 years giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.
Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.
Follow Las Vegas Sun Entertainment + Luxury Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.