It took a nudge from a friend, but when Kelly Cundiff decided to enter the Miss Butler County USA 2011 pageant, she jumped in with both feet.
Last November, Kelly, a junior at Seneca Valley High School, saw a representative from the Kane Modeling School & Agency in Butler at her school. A friend actually gave her a push towards the table.
“She told me that I would be perfect for it and gave me a little shove,” she said, “I’ve been involved in sports all of my life, but I had never thought of doing a pageant until then.”
Five weeks later, Kelly competed in the first beauty pageant of her life and became the new Miss Butler County USA 2011.
“It was definitely a surprise, but I was so happy and excited to win,” said the 17-year-old Cranberry resident.
Her mother, Laurie Cundiff, laughed when she described her initial reaction to the news Kelly wanted to enter a beauty pageant.
“She came home and said she wanted to try something new, and I said, ‘Do I need to sit down to hear this?’ ”
As it turned out, Cundiff was startled but happy.
“Initially, I was surprised, but she always enjoys new adventures,” she said.
Kelly, too, got a surprise when her mom told her that she too had entered a pageant when she was in high school.
“I never knew that, and when she told me that she had been a finalist and what a good experience it had been, it made me want to do it (enter the pageant) even more,” she said.
Kelly and 11 other young women from Butler County competed for the title on December 5.
“I was nervous, but more the good kind of nervous and excitement,” she said of the experience.
For the event, Kelly competed both in gown and bathing suit segments of the pageant and several interviews. In addition to the overall title, Kelly also won the Miss Photogenic award.
Cundiff, her husband and Kelly’s father, Doug Cundiff, and Kelly’s brother, Paul, 14, joined other family members and friends for the pageant and were thrilled when she won.
“I did the typical mom thing and jumped up and screamed,” said Laurie, “We were all just so proud.”
Over the next year, Kelly will make several appearances as Miss Butler County USA 2011 and will compete in the Miss Pennsylvania USA pageant in November.
“This will provide me with so many more opportunities to do more charity work,” she said.
A member of the varsity lacrosse team at Seneca Valley High School, Kelly will fit her appearances as Miss Butler County USA into her busy schedule.
“I also love snowboarding and go with the ski club every opportunity I can get,” she said.
In addition to her family, Kelly’s friends have shared her excitement.
“I was a little worried about what they might think, but they are all so happy for me,” she said, “I can’t believe how much support I have gotten.”