K. Lee Graham of Chapin, South Carolina became Miss Teen USA on August 2nd at Atlantis, Paradise Island Resort in The Bahamas. Hours after being crowned, the 17-year-old honors student arrived in New York City still in disbelief that the new title as Miss Teen USA was really hers.
The small town of Chapin is home to one of South Carolina’s most academically competitive high schools (Chapin High) where K. Lee currently holds a 5.024 GPA and is ranked number one in her class. She believes that education is the foundation for anything you wish to accomplish in life and K. Lee plans to promote the importance of it in classrooms across the country throughout her reign.
Born Katherine Lee, the abbreviation for K. Lee (“Kaylee”) stuck after her youngest sister couldn’t quite pronounce her full name and therefore took the liberty to shorten it to include only the first letter “K.” Passionate about theater, the teen who describes herself as quirky and a “drama nerd” has studied drama at the South Carolina Governor’s School for the Arts and Humanities’ intensive summer program as well as participated in several local productions. K. Lee is the second oldest of five children and has been raised to be penny-wise to save for the college of her choice. A member of the SAT Team which preps students for the test, K. Lee is excited to begin the application process this fall with Yale’s School of Drama and the University of South Carolina Honor’s College, among others, in mind. Previously, K. Lee took AP courses granting her the option for early graduation and therefore allowing her to return to NYC in 2015 to take advantage of the New York Film Academy scholarship she is awarded as Miss Teen USA.
The strong work ethic that K. Lee’s mother and father have instilled in their children helped K. Lee to stay focused academically when she was preparing for the Miss Teen USA pageant. The dedication that K. Lee puts in to everything she does is what eventually persuaded her parents to allow her to compete in pageants. Having a place on the pageant wall of fame herself, K. Lee’s mother Jennifer held the title of Miss South Carolina Teen USA 1985 and is her daughter’s biggest supporter – she even wore the same colored dress as K. Lee’s evening gown the night of the competition for good luck.
When she isn’t working on her studies or fulfilling her duties as Miss Teen USA, K. Lee is an active writer and blogger for “Live Beautifully,” a self-confidence campaign she started as Miss South Carolina Teen USA. “Live Beautifully” is designed for others to learn acceptance of themselves and find their inner beauty by understanding three pillars: embrace yourself, embrace others and embrace your community. K. Lee also enjoys running, pilates and spending time boating with her family. Having quite the opposite palate of an average teenager, K. Lee craves broccoli and kale keeping a healthy lifestyle as a vegetarian for the past three years now. After getting her first taste of the Big Apple, K. Lee has already made a list of things she wants to do – she has already walked in New York Fashion Week this past summer – and can’t wait to return.
As Miss Teen USA, K. Lee will also be a spokesperson for teen issues and will work closely with organizations such as Best Buddies, Project Sunshine and Girl Talk, among others.