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Statesboro's "Miss America" Dr. Kara Martin Shelar shares her journey

Statesboro native and 1994 first runner up to Miss America, Dr. Kara Martin Shelar, M.D., will be tuning in on Thursday, December 16, 2021 anxiously awaiting the momentous crowning of the 100th Miss America .
Credit: Statesboro Herald

Statesboro native and 1994 first runner up to Miss America, Dr. Kara Martin Shelar, M.D., will be tuning in on Thursday, December 16, 2021 anxiously awaiting the momentous crowning of the 100th Miss America.  The pageant will be streamed live free on Peacock.  The pre-show will begin at 7 pm and the competition starts at 8 pm.

Journey to Miss America

Kara Martin Shelar
1993 Miss Georgia, 1994 1st Runner Up to Miss America

Kara’s journey to Miss America began on the stage at the old McCroan auditorium at GS.  Her first pageant was Miss Georgia Southern College at age 17.  She didn’t win (or even place) that year, but loved the challenge.  Kara studied the winners and continued competing in local pageants over the next several years. 

She finally won her first local pageant as Miss GSU in 1991.  She was actually the first Miss Georgia Southern University.  She competed in the Miss Georgia pageant that year placing first runner up.

In 1993 she won the Miss Georgia pageant in her second appearance as Miss Southeast Georgia.  In 1994 she placed first runner up to Miss America.  

Statesboro Celebrates

That was a tremendously wonderful moment for Kara, her parents Kim and the late Dr. Robert Martin, Phd. and the entire Statesboro community.

The community came together and held a huge event on the courthouse square with a small parade and the Statesboro High School band to welcome home our “Miss America”.  Hundreds of citizens turned out for the welcome home ceremony.

Physician in Atlanta

L-R: Dougie, Kara and Edie Grace Grice

Dr. Kara Martin Shelar, M.D. is married to Scott Shelar, CEO of the Construction Education Foundation of Georgia, who is also a native of this area and a graduate of Georgia Southern.  

They live in Decatur outside of Atlanta where Kara works as a hospitalist with The Southeast Permanente Medical Group.  They have two children, their son Martin, 14, who is laser focused on becoming a professional baseball player and daughter Sophie, 11, who has also begun competing in pageants.

Kara Martin Shelar
L-R: Dr. Kara Martin Shelar, Sophie, Scott and Martin

Grice Connect thought our followers would enjoy catching up with Kara as we approached Miss America’s 100th.  Below is our interview with Kara:

Kara can you tell Grice Connects followers about the opportunities allowed to you in this journey, the people you met and scholarships you received competing in pageants.

"Perhaps the most notable opportunity I received was graduating debt free from Medical School at the Medical College of Georgia entirely through scholarships won through Miss Georgia and Miss America.  However, as Miss Georgia I traveled throughout the Southeastern United States for speaking and performance engagements at schools, civic organizations, businesses and pageants.  I was invited to speak to the Georgia Legislature.  I met Governor Zell Miller and Hank Aaron!  I was featured in Allure Magazine (along with the other top 5 at Miss America that year) and was a special guest in the Audience for the Regis and Kathy Lee show (Regis was so fun and loved the pageant!).   Immediately after Miss America I traveled to NYC with Miss America and the top 5 for a magazine photo session and dinner at the Plaza Hotel!" 

What is your favorite Miss America memory?  

"I have so many wonderful memories of Miss America.  I was able to celebrate my 23rd birthday at the pageant!  I was honored to win the swimsuit competition at Miss America!  I remember vividly the moment Kimberly Aiken and I were standing hand in hand waiting for the new Miss America to be announced.  It was just a moment in time, but felt like an eternity.  I remember realizing at that moment I was participating in a historic moment regardless of the outcome!  I really felt like God was speaking to me at that moment and letting me know that what I was doing mattered."  

How has this journey impacted your life?  

"Pageants teach leadership and confidence and I definitely began my leadership journey back then.  Becoming a celebrity for a year you learn how to connect with people with all backgrounds and from all walks of life.  You realize the gift of your celebrity is making someone else feel special.  As a physician and leader I work with different groups of people.  Communication is a critical skill in medicine.  I began my high level communication skill development in my time at Miss Georgia."  

The role your parents played in this journey, especially your dad.  Tell us about his role:

Kara Martin Shelar
L-R: Dr. Robert Martin, Phd., Kara, Kim Martin

"My dad was a professor at GS and was my pageant coach!  He was/is my hero and was the ideal pageant coach for me because he was such an excellent personal coach and problem solver.  He would lug a huge VHS video camera on his shoulder around to my pageant practices and competitions to videotape everything!  I used those videotapes to help guide my improvements.  It seemed crazy at the time, but now everyone uses videotape for their performance practices!  Maybe we were ahead of our time!" 

What did it mean to have your hometown welcome you back in grand style even as 1st runner up:  

Kara Martin Shelar
Kara with daughter Sophie

"I so wanted to win Miss America not just for my own personal accomplishment, but to bring recognition to Statesboro!  I feel so blessed to have grown up here.  Statesboro is truly my extended family and has so much to offer.  All of my teachers and friends throughout my childhood cared about me personally and went out of their way to help me accomplish my dreams.  I wouldn’t be where I am without that support and love."