The 18-year-old Surf City resident competed for the 2017 Miss Teen USA crown, held in Phoenix on July 28 and 29.
SURF CITY — After years of competing in pageants on the local and state level, Kenzie Hansley set her sights on a national crown.
The 18-year-old Surf City resident, who will attend High Point University in the fall, competed for the 2017 Miss Teen USA crown, held in Phoenix on July 28 and 29.
She didn’t win — that honor went to Miss Missouri, Sophia Dominguez-Heithoff. But Hansley was excited the Monday after the competition weekend.
“It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had,” she said. “I left Phoenix with 50 new best friends. We haven’t stopped texting since we left. It was just so cool!”
Hansley started competing in pageants when she was 10 years old. Her first competition was the Junior Miss Wilmington title, which she won despite being the youngest competitor.
“I won my first time, so I kind of got stuck in the pageant world,” she joked.
Going one-for-one in pageants made Hansley want more, and three years later she competed for Miss Wilmington’s Outstanding Teen, where she suffered her first pageant defeat.
“I was like, ‘I’m never doing this again, this is stupid!’” she said. “Then I realized that I was the baby out of the group; everyone else was 15, 16, 17, and I was 13 years old and didn’t know anything about life.”
The following year Hansley came back and won Miss Wilmington’s Outstanding Teen, allowing her to advance to Miss North Carolina’s Outstanding Teen pageant, where she placed in the Top 10.
But top 10 wasn’t enough for Hansley, and she returned the next year and won.
After winning Miss North Carolina’s Outstanding Teen last October, Hansley advanced to the Miss Teen USA pageant.
Hansley said she sometimes feels an added burden representing North Carolina because of the success the state has had in recent years — second runner-up in 2015 and first runner-up in 2016.
“It is a lot of pressure, but I just have to remember I have done every preparation I can,” Hansley said, referring to her daily gym workouts, interview preparation and dress designing. “Everyone says you are competing with the other girls, but you are really just competing against yourself.”
After the pageant in Phoenix, Hansley spent a week modeling in Atlanta, then returned to her job at the Sears Landing restaurant in Surf City.
She plans to study mass communications and broadcast journalism at High Point University.
“I’m hoping to be a morning news anchor one day,” she said.
Hansley’s not finished with the pageant world. She hopes to compete in the Miss America system.
“My ultimate dream and goal is to be a Miss America,” she said.
Meanwhile, she’ll take some time away from pageants.
“My mom and dad want me to take two years off, get settled into college,” she said. “I’m saying one year but they’re saying two.”
Staff Writer Si Cantwell contributed to this story.
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