Pageant co-host wears comedy like a crown

Co-host Kristie Greene Lee promises to bring fun to the Miss South Carolina pageant — and possibly some doughnuts

otaylor@thestate.comJuly 12, 2012 

Kristie Greene Lee can follow a script — but it’s better when she doesn’t. Things are funnier and more entertaining.

Lee was a hit at last year’s Miss South Carolina Pageant as a guest host, and she’s back this year doing what she does best: jolting the Township Auditorium with her onstage antics.

“I guess I’m a bit of a loose cannon,” said Lee, Miss South Carolina 1994.

You think? Who else would dare to bring doughnuts to a beauty pageant? That’s a joke Lee was going to play after she heard some audience members actually thought her name was Kristie Kreme. Of course, the script fell apart.

The plan was to pass out dozens of Krispy Kreme doughnuts, but two minutes before she went on stage, Lee learned that the production staff had eaten all but two.

“That changed everything,” Greene said. “I just kind of winged it. I knew I had two doughnuts and I was going to eat one. That’s a given.”

Greene gave one to Parker Dearborn, a judge she had been flirting with all week, and she ate the other right there on stage.

“I do much better when things don’t go according to plan,” she said.

Jane Jenkins Herlong, Miss South Carolina 1979, is the primary pageant host this year. Herlong, a humorist and author of “Bare Feet to High Heels: You Don’t Have to be a Beauty Queen to be a Beautiful Person,” is a good pairing with Greene.

“Between those two, they’ll keep the crowd entertained,” said Ashley Byrd, Miss S.C.’s president and executive director.

“I think it’s my personality and the way I approach life,” Lee said. “I see humor around me all the time. I grew up with parents who had an extremely good sense of humor.”

Lee, who also said an uncle would disrupt holiday dinners with jokes, is the type of person who says things that others wish they had the nerve to say. It was Lee who said that she looked like a jumbo shrimp in a dress last year.

“It’s just about being comfortable with who you are,” said Lee, now a seventh-grade language arts teacher at Henry L. Sneed Middle School in Florence. “I can’t go up there and be something I’m not.”

While other former Miss S.C. winners probably work out as hard as the contestants to look good when they’re honored nightly, Lee said she is comfortable in her own skin.

“Whether I’m a size 2 or a size 20, that doesn’t change who I am,” she said. “Does that mean I don’t want to lose weight and eat healthier? But I’m not going to do that because people know that I’m a former Miss South Carolina and I should be small.”

Bree Boyce, the reigning Miss S.C., lost 100 pounds on her way to the crown. Unlike other hosts last year, Boyce, who is a fan of Lee, knows what she’s up against when they share the stage.

“I might have to put her in her place a couple of nights,” Boyce said about Lee. “There might be some entertainment in that.”

Lee hosted the Miss S.C. pageant in 2009 when it was run by Joe and Gail Sanders. The Miss South Carolina Scholarship Organization was issued the state title from the Miss America Organization in 2010. When asked about other state pageants that inject humor into the program, Byrd could only think of one other — New Jersey — that matches South Carolina’s flair.

“When somebody asks me to emcee something, they know what they’re going to get,” Lee said. “I can play by the script, but they know I’m going to say something out of line.”

Reach Taylor at (803) 771-8362.

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