Whitehall-Coplay Press

Sunday, April 22, 2018
CONTRIBUTED PHOTOKelly Kercher, of Whitehall, will compete for the Miss Texas title during the July 1 pageant in Dallas. CONTRIBUTED PHOTOKelly Kercher, of Whitehall, will compete for the Miss Texas title during the July 1 pageant in Dallas.

Whitehall resident to compete for Miss Texas title

Wednesday, June 14, 2017 by STEPHANIE RAPHUN Special to The Press in Local News

This summer, the Miss Texas competition, held in Dallas July 1, will feature women from all over the state vying for the winning title and hoping to continue their journey toward Miss America. This year, one Miss Texas hopeful, Kelly Kercher, is from right here in the Lehigh Valley and is very proud of her Pennsylvania roots.

Kercher attended Whitehall-Coplay Middle School and is a 2014 graduate of Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Performing Arts. Growing up, Kercher was always involved in dance and continued to push forward year after year with her love and passion for dance and the arts at Steps in Time, Whitehall. Once she graduated, she headed south to Huntsville, Texas, to attend Sam Houston State University, where she majored in dance until increasing discomfort from a previous back injury forced her to consider another area of interest. She decided to focus on math instead.

Each year, the university hosts the Miss Sam Houston pageant, and women representing organizations all over campus submit their applications and begin preparing for the pageant. Kercher’s boyfriend, Brendon Ianiero, asked her if she would consider representing his fraternity, Theta Chi, in the pageant.

“I had no pageant experience whatsoever, so this was all so completely new to me!” Kercher said. “And I remember it being a Thursday when he asked me, and I decided to participate, and by then, I had only until Tuesday to submit my application and platform statement. So it was a very crazy couple of days.”

Participating in the Miss Sam Houston pageant, just like any pageant, involves a lot of preparation for applicants. The application process took place in October; interviews were scheduled to be conducted in November; and then pageant practices occurred twice a week leading up until the pageant, which was held Feb. 16. Kercher had to practice with the other participants for a group dance as part of the introduction part of the pageant.

After introductions, the contestants had to pick a part of the university they felt represented their school spirit and make an outfit.

“I was Miss Frizzle, the teacher from The Magic School Bus book series,” Kercher said. “I designed a schoolteacher outfit with a blue skirt with things like letters, a pencil and an apple sewed on the skirt, and I had a clipboard with the words Miss Theta Chi written in big letters for this part of the competition.”

Next, Kercher had the swimwear competition and then the talent competition, where she performed a contemporary lyrical dance number, which then led to a round of cuts before the onstage question segment of the pageant.

Following the questions, there was one final elimination before the crowning of winners.

Kercher won the title of Miss Piney Woods and was crowned alongside Chandler Berryhill, who was crowned Miss Sam Houston.

“I was so overwhelmed that I won, and I remember excitedly shouting, ‘Oh my gosh, I got a crown!’” Kercher recalls of the moment she learned she had won.

Kercher’s boyfriend stood on his chair cheering for her, and she could hear her best friend cheering over the audience. At this point, she hadn’t seen her family yet but was so thrilled they were able to come down and celebrate this moment with her.

As Miss Piney Woods, Kercher has had the opportunity to represent Sam Houston University at many events and has met amazing people, she said, including artists such as the Eli Young Band, A$AP Ferg and Waka Flaka at the yearly Sammy Palooza event held March 29.

Since being crowned Miss Piney Woods, Kercher has been preparing for her next step — the Miss Texas pageant. Her platform for this pageant will be STEM equality, which addresses the imbalance of participation of women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics compared to men. She would really like to do her part in encouraging and supporting women in their pursuit of a career in these fields, she said.

Her months leading up to the big event have been spent staying on target with her fitness and exercise goals, practicing good healthy eating and purchasing her formal wear, interview dress, shoes and accessories. Her university will assist her with many financials involved in participating in the pageant, but she also has created a GoFundMe account (gofundme.com/3g5ei9c) to help her raise additional monies she will need to make it all happen.

“I’m just really excited to be back on stage performing. To be on stage again for me is a huge thrill, and I’m excited for the experience, win or lose,” Kercher said. “Just getting this experience and opportunity to meet so many amazing people has been the dream of a lifetime.”