PRESTONSBURG — For a local teen competing on the beauty pageant circuit, the past few months have been all about triumph, although her personal trials are never far from her mind.
Kaleigh Kendrick, 15, daughter of Dr. Jack and Susan Kendrick, of Prestonsburg, has entered eight preliminary contests since May, winning all eight. In the coming months, she will move on to bigger stages, competing in several statewide contests.
“I love them,” Kendrick says about the pageants. “I have fun. They’re stressful, some of them, if there’s a lot of people.”
Just this past weekend, she not only won during the Kentucky Beauties preliminary at Jenny Wiley State Resort Park, she took home nearly every award in the building, winning Kentucky Beauties Teen Queen, Kentucky Beauties Ambassador and Kentucky Beauties Sponsorship, plus overall most photogenic, best hair, most personality and best dressed.
But despite her success, for Kendrick, the competition is not so much about the titles she takes home, as the lives she hopes to touch.
“A lot of people do it for the glitz and the glam and all that, but I do it because it allows me to go out and meet new people and also speak about bullying,” Kendrick said.
Bullying is an important subject for Kendrick, due to personal experience.
“I’ve been bullied off and on since fifth grade by the same two people,” Kendrick said. “Sometimes, there will be a group of them.”
The high school sophomore says that, at one point, the bullying got so bad that she changed schools for a time. Now, however, she is back in the same school with the same people who caused her problems when she was younger. Now, however, she has tools to overcome it.
“I’ve learned to document it,” Kendrick said. “I’ve learned to tell people about it. If you’re getting cyber-bullied, I’ve learned also to save all the things they say to you.”
It is those lessons she now hopes to teach younger students. Kendrick visits elementary and middle school students to talk to them about why it is wrong to bully others, as well as what they can do if they are being picked on.
“I want people to realize you are beautiful in your own way, and you can be confident and be who you are,” Kendrick said. “People shouldn’t have the right to make you change because they don’t like you.”
And she is also taking her message to other venues. Later this month, she is organizing a 5K race and cookout, during which she hopes to reach people of all ages with her message. She is also in the early stages of planning a flag-football contest to benefit the American Cancer Society.
On Friday, her efforts were noticed, when Mayor Jerry Fannin issued a proclamation in support of anti-bullying initiatives.