Kellstrom Strikes Gold as 100th Miss Asheville - TribPapers

Kellstrom Strikes Gold as 100th Miss Asheville

Sophia Kellstrom is ecstatic right after she was crowned as the 100th Miss Asheville. Photo by Pete Zamplas.

Asheville – Sophia Kellstrom won the overall Miss Asheville 2024 title after winning both the Talent and Evening Wear segments at the multi-pageant show in Erwin High School’s Bob Johnson Theater.

She demonstrated her powerful, soulful voice by singing Etta James’ famed “At Last.” The evening gown segment reflects modeling skills such as on-stage movement and composure. Health and fitness was another segment.

She developed stage presence from her UNC-Charlotte studies, with a degree in musical theater and classes in broadcasting, dance and design. Kellstrom, 24, works at Fox Sports-Charlotte as production coordinator.

Miss Asheville is eligible for a $1,500 academic scholarship.

Child Hunger

“I’m so excited to be a role model to young ladies across the Asheville area, while promoting my CSI (community service intiative),” Kellstrom told judges. Her CSI is ‘Make A Change; Ending Child Hunger One Penny at a Time,” via small donations by many people. When she was age six, it “broke my heart” to hear of child hunger from missionaries from Haiti who spoke at her church.

In response, “I began collecting all the change I could find on the sidewalks, couch cushions, old purses, etc. and encouraged my friends to do the same. Within 3 months we (children) had raised enough money to feed a whole orphanage for a weekend.”

By now, “my efforts have reached 12 different countries” and 20 of N.C.’s 100 counties. “I work and partner with eight national and international organizations.” She helped establish a school curriculum, and recently published a children’s book about “my story to inspire our youth to volunteerism.”

A ten-minute advance interview with judges counts the most (30 percent) toward judging points. There is 20 percent each for talent, evening gown, and health and fitness segments. Answering (on-stage within 20 seconds) a question about one’s community issue counts for the other 10 percent. Poise and impromptu speaking skills outweigh the answer’s content, show co-host Farrell Beam noted.

These three pageants are among those open to any North Carolina resident. Kellstrom still lives in her hometown of Kings Mountain. She won two prior titles — as Miss Gastonia in 2018, and Metrolina in 2020-21 during the COVID pandemic. She gets a third shot at a Miss North Carolina crown on June 24-29 in High Point.

Kellstrom was awed by winning her title, and the sound and sight of a sudden blast of confetti showering down on stage. She received a gold crown, in honor of the 100 years of Miss Asheville. Few other pageants have gold crowns; Miss California has that for 2024.

Miss Asheville contestants (“delegates”) and their competitive talents were: Bailey Beam (vocal), 26, of Lincolnton; Molly Dorgan (her story as a firefighter), 21, of Waynesville; Kellstorm (vocal), 24, of Asheville; Aireal McElreath (vocal), 18, of Candler; and Sanii Thomas (monologue), 20, of Arden. Thomas recited poet Maya Angelou’s “Phenomenal Woman.”

The other five pageant queens crowned on Saturday night are: Miss Blue Ridge Valley 2024 Hannah Welborn-Lewis, Miss Carolina Foothills Madison McVey, Asheville Outstanding Teen Marin Beesley, Blue Ridge Valley Teen Isabella DiFiore, and Miss Carolina Foothills Teen Emilee Bradley. None live “locally” — as in the Tribune’s coverage area of Buncombe and Henderson counties.

Animated Lily

The locally-living contestant who placed best is Lily Yudenfriend. The West Henderson High School freshman is runner-up to all three teen queens. As such, she would take the place of any of them if they are unable to serve. She is also among four out of the ten teen contestants who got pageant spirit awards.

Yudenfriend was very animated and comical in tap dancing to “Spanish Rose” from the musical Bye, Bye Birdie. Her civic issue was helping provide financial aid to women with breast or gynecological cancer. In answering a question on-stage, she said her main aim is to show “compassion and empathy.” Anaiya Stewart, 15, of Asheville, was the other local teen contestant. She danced for talent.

The youngest girls dancing on stage were 20 Carolina Stars — aged 6-12. These pageant queens-in-training shadow contestants they are assigned to. Center Stage Dance Studio youth also performed between pageant segments.

The pageants’ directors are Jon Vance and Jeff Jones. A special guest was Miss N.C. Organization official John Norris. He oversees the statewide Outstanding Teen pageant.

Show co-hosts were Beam and Brianne Schlott Lehman, Miss Asheville 2015. Beam created a huge wooden gold crown, and scripted the show.

Lehman is among 14 former Miss Ashevilles who lined up on stage. They took turns talking about their days as Miss Asheville and since then. Judy Rhodes, 1974 Miss Asheville, was the earliest winner on hand. She played piano for three numbers, and sang on two of them.

Rhodes said that as Miss Asheville, her best perk was getting to share a stage with legendary comic Bob Hope.

Sharon Gentry Owen, Miss Asheville 1979, sang the national anthem to start the pageant program.