WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — One of Central Georgia's own is now on her way to compete at Miss America.
Kelsey Hollis, a Warner Robins native, took home the Miss Georgia crown Saturday night.
Hollis spoke one-on-one with 13WMAZ’s Ashlyn Webb about her big win, beginning with the moment the competition was narrowed down to her and first runner-up Miss Macon Tara Schiphof.
“When we were holding hands, I asked her if I could pray with her. Honestly, that kind of gave me a really calming feeling, but in that moment, it still was like, 'This is actually happening moments,'” Hollis said.
Then, the competition announced Hollis was the next Miss Georgia—winner of the crown and a $20,000 scholarship. “The first thing in my mind was, 'I’m going to Miss America,'” Hollis said.
Hollis was raised in Warner Robins, graduated from Houston County High School in 2017, and studied at Middle Georgia State University. Now, she’s representing the whole state on the national stage.
This isn’t the first time she’s been on the national stage. She was Miss Georgia Outstanding Teen in 2016 where she placed 2nd runner-up.
“So I feel like in a way, it’s my shot at redemption to hopefully obtain the title of Miss America, but just to give girls that are from Warner Robins the confidence and the strength to know this is something we can obtain,” Hollis said.
Hollis is the third-ever Black winner of the Miss Georgia competition. She says this is her message to the young girls looking up to her.
“Mainly that we deserve a seat at the table. This journey definitely was a process of confidence, of hard work, but to know that we're in a position now to see people who look like us obtaining things like this,” Hollis said.
The newly-crowned queen also wants to bring awareness to an issue she's worked on for years, Autism acceptance, a cause she's now made her social impact initiative.
Her older brother, Jeremy, was diagnosed with autism at age 5.
He inspired her to launch a nonprofit in 2014. It’s called TAABS, standing for Teaching Autism Awareness By Siblings.
“I really created TAABS in order to create a safe environment for families to talk about the things we go through without feeling guilty or ashamed of anything and also including those who are diagnosed with a disability in those conversations so that we all, even just as families, know the best ways to go through life with everyone feeling loved and appreciated.”
Hollis says she's also presented her autism-education platform to about 15 schools across the state.
It’s called A-Cubed: Awareness, Acceptance, and Advocacy.
Hollis says over the next few months, she'll prepare for Miss America in Connecticut.
No word on when the competition will be.