Kenzie Novell is no stranger to pageant competition. The 2009 Lewis and Clark grad has competed in Miss America pageants, winning the Miss Spokane title in 2009 and 2012.
But winning a state title eluded her. “I finished in the top 10 both times,” she said.
Last year, Novell switched to the Miss USA pageants and on Oct. 19, the coveted crown was placed on her head. She outshone 75 other contestants to be chosen as Miss Washington USA.
She said the moment was thrilling and surreal.
Novell started pageant competition in high school. “I competed primarily for scholarships and for building personal speaking skills,” Novell said.
Indeed, pageant dollars, as well as a host of other scholarships, have enabled the 23-year-old to graduate from Gonzaga University debt-free.
While she finished her education at Gonzaga with a degree in PR and marketing, she started out as an engineering major at the University of Washington.
She may be a blonde and a beauty queen, but Novell enjoys turning stereotypes upside down. “I love math,” she said.
Though she enjoyed her freshman year at UW, she found the class sizes far too big. “I was in one class with 700 students,” she said.
She said a transfer to Gonzaga her sophomore year meant her largest class had about 35 students.
Novell is looking forward to launching her career, but for now she said, “Miss Washington USA is my full-time job.”
She relishes opportunities to advocate on behalf of organizations like Communities in Schools and Spokane Youth Sports Association. “I’m passionate about children,” she said. “A crown opens a lot of doors and gives me a microphone.”
In her free time she enjoys golf, having played on the golf team at Lewis and Clark.
Two years ago, a new hobby called when Novell saw a presentation by Spokane Aerial Performance Arts. A lifelong dancer, she was enchanted when she saw performers spinning from silks hanging high above her. “I said, ‘Oh, I want to do this!’ ” she recalled, and immediately signed up for classes.
With the Miss USA pageant approaching this spring, Novell said she has much to do to prepare – including acquiring sponsors. She said pageant competition is not cheap.
However, she feels the confidence she’s developed and the connections she’s made across the state have been well-worth her time.
Novell offers these words of advice to young women considering pageant competitions. “I’ve been in 17 pageants. You gain so much by competing one more time. Never give up.”
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