- Benjamin D. Bloom Photography
Kelsey and Kenzie Golonka of Montpelier were crowned Miss Vermont USA and Miss Vermont Teen USA, respectively, on Sunday at Spruce Peak Performing Arts Center in Stowe. It marks the first time in 40 years — since a teen division was added to the event — that sisters were victorious in the same year.
“My heart was pounding and I was over-the-moon excited when Kenzie was getting called,” Kelsey, 22, said. “Obviously, I was super-excited for myself. But I was even more excited for her. That was super special.”
Kenzie, 16, is a junior at Montpelier High School. She said she was “super-shocked” to win the teen competition, which preceded her sister’s Miss Vermont USA event.
“When my sister won, too, it was really surreal,” Kenzie said. “And I’m excited to be able to do this with her.”
The sisters will represent Vermont at the Miss USA and Miss Teen USA 2022 pageants later this year.
“We’re going to be spending the year promoting the Miss USA Vermont organization,” Kelsey said. “And go around and talk in schools and inspire other people across the state of Vermont.”
The Golonka sisters are two of five children — three sisters and two brothers — of Thomas and Cynthia Golonka. Kelsey is a summa cum laude graduate of the University of North Carolina-Wilmington and a registered nurse who works in the NICU at a local hospital. The second oldest in the family, she was crowned Miss Vermont Teen USA in 2017.
The Miss Universe organization, which oversees the Miss Universe, USA and Teen USA pageants, "is all about empowering women and exploring their confidence,” Kelsey said, explaining her interest in pageantry. “To me, that was incredibly appealing.
“I wanted to be able to go into a room no matter who I was with,” she continued, “and hold my own and have that confidence.”
Kenzie, the youngest in the family, said she was impressed by her sister’s Miss Vermont Teen USA experience.
“That inspired me,” Kenzie said. “And I wanted that confidence for myself.”
A panel of four judges evaluates the contestants in three categories: evening gown, interview, bathing suit for Miss Vermont USA and leisurewear for Miss Vermont Teen USA.
- Benjamin D. Bloom Photography
- Kenzie, left, and Kelsey Golonka
“For me, this is all about self-reflection and being able to go up onstage and present myself in a way that’s saying, ‘Hey, this is me, and I’m not perfect by any means,’ ‘’ Kelsey said. “And I hope to show that and inspire young individuals across the state and at the national pageant, as well.”
The sisters celebrated their double crowning with dinner with family and friends, a party that included homemade chocolate chip cookies. “Because that’s a necessity,” Kelsey said. “You can’t go wrong with chocolate chip cookies.”
The Golonkas said they try to eat a healthy, varied and balanced diet, and to exercise. Kenzie is a competitive dancer and a member of the state championship tennis team at Montpelier High School. Kelsey was also on the tennis team at Montpelier High School, a squad that won two state titles when she played.
On occasion, their diet includes a meal at J. Morgan’s Steakhouse in the Capitol Plaza, a business owned by their mother’s family. Kelsey likes the maple-ginger glazed salmon, and Kenzie is a fan of the pub chicken.
“You don’t need to be six feet tall and a supermodel and a stick figure. Everyone is beautiful and that’s what 'pageantry reimagined' is all about,” Kelsey said, referring to the Miss Universe organization's slogan.
“I think my sister summed it up pretty nicely,” she said. “This weekend is about being confident in who you are and showing that to everyone.”
The Miss USA pageant is 70 years old; the teen pageant started in 1983.