Chelsea Hardy talks the way a pageant queen should and knows her way around an M-16 like a military specialist ought to.
It’s an odd combo – the crown and the camouflage – but as the current Miss Kentucky State University and a maintenance clerk in the Kentucky National Guard, Hardy’s not too concerned with the status quo.
A lifelong dancer, Hardy was initially interested in KSU because of the opportunity to dance with the K-Rettes in the school marching band. But she chose the university because of the school’s involvement with the guard.
Hardy joined the Indiana National Guard in 2007 as a high school senior in Indianapolis.
“My father was in the Army, my grandfather and uncle were in the Air Force, and I like to try different things out.”
Simple as that?
“I didn’t want to stick to the norm,” she said. Simple as that.
After her year with the Indiana National Guard, Hardy wanted to continue her service at an historically black college. She checked out KSU after a suggestion from her school dance coach, and the visit sealed the deal.
“I liked the culture of the school and, of course, the marching band. It felt like family.”
The soft-spoken social work major initially brushed off the idea of entering a school pageant. During her freshman orientation, she had seen some of the responsibilities of being the face of the university and was convinced it wasn’t for her.
But as time passed and her confidence and comfort level grew, Hardy had a change of heart. She entered and won the Miss Junior Kentucky State pageant as a junior and the Miss KSU pageant in April, all while steadily fulfilling her duties with her guard unit, officially Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 376th Aviation Regiment.
Hardy, 22, isn’t the first beauty queen to be active in military service.
Katrina Hodge, of England, joined the British Armed Forces in 2004 at age 17 and served in Iraq, winning several medals for her service. Hodge became Miss England in 2009 during a break from the military and returned to active duty for a tour in Iraq last year as a corporal.
In 2004, Allison Paganetti won the title of Miss Rhode Island USA while training in the Army’s ROTC program and in 2007, Second Lt. Kelly George competed as Miss Arkansas in the national Miss USA pageant.
Hardy credits the guard with giving her the strength and sense of duty to tackle physical evaluations, periodic traveling, shooting tests and more.
“They’ve instilled so much in me the past five years, and a lot of it is the same as biblical principals, so I really like that.”
She sticks to her guns when it comes to her faith. Hardy acknowledges it’s another way she deviates from the norm – especially on a secular college campus.
“The majority of the campus is a little bit more free spirited than me, but it’s not frustrating,” she says. “I’ve always used my biblical principals, and my family has always been loving and supporting.”
Hardy says her goals after graduating and leaving the guard are to be a wife and a mother. She wants to eventually pursue a degree in marriage and family therapy.
But for now, as Miss Kentucky State University, she’s leading the campus in what she calls “selfless service.”
Hardy says her campaign platform was based on serving the KSU community by taking herself out of the equation and “implementing what the students wanted to do” in her reign instead of implementing her own ideas.
She plays a part in freshman orientation (making sure new students have an easy transition), speaks at campus events as the face of the university, recruits prospective students, initiates community service projects and campus-wide events and more.
Hardy plans to work with the local women’s shelter, soup kitchen and senior center, and says she’d like to get the community involved in service.
“I want to reach out a lot more and let people know we’re Frankfort’s university,” she says.
“I think to be a leader, you must first be a servant. I’m just here to be a servant and make an impact.”