Former Miss O.C. competing at Miss New Jersey - Ocean City Sentinel: News

Former Miss O.C. competing at Miss New Jersey

By REBECCA FOX/Special to the Sentinel | Posted: Wednesday, June 12, 2019 10:48 am

Editor’s note: There are a number of local competitors at the Miss New Jersey Pageant this week, including Natalie Ragazzo and Abigail Waid. This story features Tuckahoe’s Madison Kennelly.

OCEAN CITY — Former Miss Ocean City Madison Kennelly is no stranger to the pageant lifestyle, having competed for 17 tiaras over the years. However, the 20-year-old faces one of the bigger challenges of her life this weekend when she competes for the Miss New Jersey crown.

Preliminary competitions are scheduled for 8 p.m. June 12 and 13 in the Superstar Theater at Resorts in Atlantic City. The public can meet the contestants at 6 p.m. Friday, June 14, and the final competitions are scheduled for 7:15 p.m. Saturday, June 15. Tickets are available on 

Kennelly, who is competing in Miss NJ with her regional Miss Ocean Sands title, moved to the Tuckahoe section of Upper Township right before beginning high school at the Gloucester County Institute of Technology. She graduated from GCIT in 2016. 

Since then, she has worked at Uncle Bill’s Pancake House in Ocean City for seven years and will be starting her senior year at York College in the fall.

“It was amazing to get to know the community of Ocean City. I grew up going here every summer,” Kennelly said.

She described her year as Miss Ocean City as “the best year of my life.” 

Winning the title (as well as the sash and tiara) of Miss Ocean City in 2018 drew Kennelly into the tight-knit community quickly, she said, recalling that many families became very close with her own.

“Being able to be Miss Ocean City really made me feel like I was at home,” Kennelly said. “And I got to know as many people as I could and made lifelong friendships and connections that I am really grateful for.”

Kennelly said preparing for the Miss New Jersey pageant is “stressful, but it’s very fun.” 

Getting to know all of the other contestants is well worth it to her because of the relationships she has been able to make along the way.

“It’s not an easy prep, but I always call it the storm before the calm,” Kennelly said. “Because when you get to Miss New Jersey it is so much fun, and you are hanging out with all the other 27 girls. You are just getting to know the routines and finding your place on the stage, and it’s all well worth it — however stressful it is, it’s still worth it to hang out with your best friends and compete for the best job.”

Kennelly picked her favorite Little Stars to accompany her on her Miss New Jersey journey. Ginger Mumman, who sat alongside her as Little Miss Ocean City last year; Madeline Aragno, whom she taught to dance since Madeline was 3 years old and has been her Little Star every year; and Anna Berman, who has become like a sister to her with their families working together so closely. Kennelly said they all get along well and are the perfect choices for her. 

Kennelly said their families have gotten very close and she looks at her Little Stars as her real little sisters.

Throughout her years of competing in pageants, Kennelly has learned a lot. Many of her experiences have led her to sharing advice with other girls growing up.

She wants girls “to be yourself and never feel afraid to be who you really are inside,” Kennelly said. “It’s natural to feel like you’ll be embarrassed or made fun of for being who you are, but it’s better to show your true colors and just be who you want to be at all times. That’s when you’ll meet the real people and make your best friends. Especially in a society where everyone is putting out different images, connect to who you really are and promote that.”

“I’ve learned that my entire life throughout high school, so it’s really important to tell people that,” Kennelly said. “Those were the hardest times in middle school and high school, but when you grow up, it gets even better. You learn, you find the real people.”

Kennelly explained that community service has been the most rewarding part of the competition. 

“All of us have a social impact statement, and mine is called ‘Lend a Paw: the Power of Pet Therapy,’” Kennelly said.

She started the organization almost nine years ago. She takes her dog, Peanut, to hospitals, nursing homes and other rehabilitation centers to help brighten residents’ days. 

“The most rewarding thing is seeing the smiles that you get from just going out and taking a day to make other people feel better,” Kennelly said. “That’s the thing that makes me the happiest to do what I do — making that little girl smile when she sees you with the crown or helping a rehab patient just feel a little bit better for five minutes.”

For Kennelly, competing for 17 years led her to set many goals. She hopes to become Miss America one day, and most importantly she wishes to be a role model for the community.

Kennelly said her main goal is “being a role model for younger girls and giving them someone to look up to with the right morals and the right ideas and goals in life, and I think I am definitely doing that with my little babies,” Kennelly said about her Little Stars. “My whole goal is to be a role model for a community.”