Can Megan Ski bring Miss Teen USA title home? – News – The Daily Herald

When Christy Smith married Gary Hollingsworth in 1995, she was unsure if she wanted to have children.

The couple from Lewisburg were focused on spending free time together, the second marriage for each. Gary already had children from a previous marriage, and they were hoping to focus on one another.

“I was hesitant,” Christy said. “I liked getting to know Gary even more in our relationship, just the two of us. I wasn’t sure I wanted to share him. I didn’t know if I ever wanted children.”

Their feelings softened after three years. Along came a little girl they named Megan Ski, who turned their duo into a trio in 1998. Gary was 39, Christy 26.

“As it turned out, it was wonderful because I never had children,” Christy said. “We were older than some couples having their first child. Maybe it was easy because of that. Maybe it was easy because Megan Ski was a sweet, happy only child.”

Christy thought Megan Ski was cute as a baby and started entering her in toddler and baby beauty contests. It became a hobby for the family, who traveled around the state to compete and collect trophies, tiaras and sashes. The blue-eyed kid won so many titles, they lost count.

Eighteen years later, Megan Ski developed into a charmed combination of brains and beauty. The honor student and former cheerleader, who graduated simultaneously from Marshall County High School and Columbia State Community College in May, won Miss Tennessee Teen USA in October. She has been rehearsing for Miss Teen USA, with the finals Saturday night in Phoenix, ever since.

“We’re really excited,” Christy said. “This is something I have dreamed of Megan Ski for some time.”

Christy and Gary checked into a hotel this week in sweltering downtown Phoenix, where temperatures stay above 100 degrees until late at night. Yes, it’s a dry heat, but the hot weather has turned up the heat on the contestants. They’ll either shine in the desert or wilt under the pressured-packed conditions.

“I am very excited to be here,” Megan Ski said Thursday. “It is not as hot as I thought it was going to be. I am just enjoying myself and staying true to myself.”

The real competition begins Friday morning. Megan Ski and the other 50 contestants will interview with judges. Megan Ski will be wearing a jumpsuit and letting the celebrity panel know her beyond her resume and press clippings. She’s an advocate for issues facing the elderly and organ donation.

“It’s like a job interview,” she said. “I have to show the judges who I am and what I am passionate about.”

The Miss Universe Organization runs Miss Teen USA. The title comes with prestige and prizes unimaginable to the Hollingsworths when they were taking Megan Ski from mall to mall across Tennessee when she was little so she could compete.

The winner receives a $5,000 cash prize and a $10,000 scholarship. Other prizes include whirlwind travel across the country to represent the pageant. Miss Teen USA also lives occasionally with Miss Universe Iris Mittenaere from France and Miss USA Kára McCullough from the District of Columbia at the organization’s luxury apartment in New York.

The job can be relentless and intense, but it’s also glamorous and the most coveted title nationally for teens.

Last year’s winner, Karlie Hay from Texas, found herself under fire immediately after claiming the crown. She had a history of controversial comments on social media. She apologized, kept her title and will crown her successor Saturday.

“I didn’t have to double check my social media before the pageant,” Megan Ski said. “My whole life, I have watched what I post. It can come back to haunt you.”

Megan Ski first competed at Miss Tennessee Teen USA when she was 13. She did not place. She made the top 15 in 2015. The third time was the charm in 2016.

“If I won, it would be amazing,” said Megan Ski, whose pageant coach is Shelley Hinson from Columbia. “I have been working toward this since I was 13. All of my hard work would pay off, and I would be extremely excited to represent the USA.

“If I don’t win, I will be disappointed, of course. I have been blessed to be Miss Tennessee Teen. I will have no regrets.”

If Megan Ski fails to finish in the top 10, Holligsworth’s father predicted she would stay the same humble young woman he raised in Lewisburg, population 11,000 about 20 miles southeast of Columbia and 50 miles south of Nashville.

“She’s been the same her whole life,” Gary Hollingsworth said. “She’s kind, sweet and genuine to everyone around her. I think she’s going to win. I might be biased. But I’ve got a feeling about her.

“She knows how to compete,” he continued. She knows how to let people know who she is. She’s beautiful inside and out. And she knows how to win. She’s great at thinking on her feet and under pressure.”

Will it be enough for Megan Ski to bring the title back to Tennessee? She was an early favorite among pageant watchers.

“Only time will tell,” she said.


James Bennett is editor of The Daily Herald. He was a 2017 Tennessee Press Association first-place award winner for editorial writing and public service. Contact him at

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