Perkins vying for win in nontraditional pageant
Kelli Perkins is on a mission to inspire our nation to broaden its standard of beauty.
Perkins, the assistant director of high school life at the UNC School of the Arts and the current Miss Central North Carolina American Beauties Plus, is hoping to put Winston-Salem on the map this spring when she competes for the title of Miss American Beauties Plus 2013. Unlike traditional beauty pageants, American Beauties Plus’ interview category counts as 50 percent of a contestant’s final score. There are also fashion and evening wear categories.
Perkins is active in the local community. She volunteers with a variety of initiatives through her sorority, Zeta Phi Beta Inc., which she also represents on the Winston-Salem Pan Hellenic Council, pitches in monthly in an office-wide volunteer effort UNCSA has dubbed “The Big Help” and gives her time to local youth informally, through tutoring and mentoring, making her a prime candidate for the American Beauties Plus crown. Royal Productions Inc., the parent company for American Beauties Plus, describes the pageants as “nationally known, platform-based pageants that reward women who are active in their communities, families and careers. Winners have the total package: they are approachable, delightful, sincere, beautiful and genuine, inside and out. In other words, they are much more than just a pretty face.
“Royal Productions Inc. is committed to the full figured woman of the United States and promotes her inner beauty, character development, leadership, ongoing education, broad intellectual interests, artistic talents, healthy lifestyles, social minded, civic involvement and cultural awareness,” according to its web site.
For Perkins, a native of Cleveland, Ohio the pageants are a means of breaking down stereotypes and empowering women across the nation to love themselves at any size.
“Not to knock my sisters of traditional pageantry, but I think there definitely needs to be a shift in what we are accomplishing,” Perkins said. “We have to figure out as a country how to empower our little girls and make them see their worth.”
Perkins, the eighth of nine children, launched her plus pageantry career in 2010, when she held the title of Miss Virginia Plus. It was an eye opening experience for the Trinity College alumna.
“When I first did it in 2010, and I told my friends that I wanted to do it, the response that I got was not something I was expecting,” she related. “People were really moved by it.”
Perkins, who relocated to Winston-Salem later that year, says she has always wanted to revisit pageantry. She chose American Beauties Plus because she liked the camaraderie she saw amongst the other queens, who are selected by the organization based upon a variety of criteria, including community service efforts.
“The reason why plus pageantry appealed to me was because it was outside of the mainstream,” said Perkins, a full time master’s student at NC A&T State University. “I was looking for the sisterhood aspect, and I felt like American Beauties Plus was going to fill that personal need of mine better. It’s a much tighter group.”
This time around, she has her sights on the top spot: Miss American Beauties Plus 2013.
“I’m turning 30 and there are a lot of things that I’m trying to do this year and one of them was enter a pageant,” she explained. “I’m trying to go for the gold this year and come home with the big crown.”
Perkins, the self described “resident diva” of UNCSA, says she is known for her penchant for fashion, vast collection of wigs and makeup artistry, but being an American Beauties queen is more than skin deep, she says.
“It’s an opportunity to break down some barriers,” she said. “It’s made me realize that I have a greater responsibility to the world, and my voice is super important.”
Perkins, who has lost 150 pounds in the last seven years, says she’s been “plump” as long as she can remember.
“The running joke in my family is one day you could pick Kelli up with one hand and the next day you couldn’t,” she quipped.
Perkins will compete against at least 31 other women at the national competition in Atlanta in April.
“I feel good, I’m pumped,” she said of the pageant, which is slated for April 25-28. “I think the first time around, I didn’t really know what to expect. I had no experience of pageantry whatsoever, but I’m ready to get up there and bring Kelli and bring my style.”
Perkins says she is active, an avid tennis and squash player, and in good health, but has always grappled with her weight. Through the pageant, she hopes to bring hope and inspiration to other women who have walked similar paths.
“It’s about giving other people who look like me a voice who feel like they might not have one otherwise,” she remarked. “My desire is to be healthy and I think that should be our focus. I need to lose weight – I don’t know anybody who doesn’t – but I’m not going to obsess over it. I’m not going to beat myself up. I have so much more to offer the world. I’m not any less of a person because I’m fat.”
For more information about American Beauties Plus, visit www.americanbeautiespluspageant.com.