Former beauty queen makes up a business |

Former beauty queen makes up a business

Post Independent/Kara K. Pearson

As a young girl in Perry, Ga., former Miss Georgia Kelly Jerles-Blackwelder was playing dress-up before she was even out of diapers.

“There’s a picture of me when I still had a paci in my mouth, wearing a floppy hat, spikey heels and pinoir, and I was holding my mama’s purse on my arm,” said Jerles-Blackwelder, owner of Glenwood’s new Kiss n’ Make-up cosmetic and accessories store. “My mama always said, ‘If you’re feeling bad, fix your hair and put on some bright lipstick, a real good-lookin’ pair of earrings and a smile.'”

Jerles-Blackwelder’s mother, Peggy, who was visiting from Georgia to celebrate her birthday and the store’s grand opening Saturday, said her daughter has enjoyed being in the spotlight all her life.

“Kelly was always doing shows. She’d say, ‘Y’all, y’all, y’all ” watch me,” she said. “She would tie a jump rope to a long candlestick and use that for her microphone. And she would wear my white go-go boots from the ’70s.”

Before she was a singer, actress and make-up artist in Los Angeles, Jerles-Blackwelder was Miss Georgia Teen USA in 1983 and third runner-up to Miss Teen USA the same year. She was crowned Miss Georgia in 1987 and won the swimsuit competition in the 1988 Miss America pageant.

“I was putting make-up on people when I was 5,” said Jerles-Blackwelder, who created her own line of cosmetics, also called Kiss n’ Make-up, that is featured in her Cooper Avenue store. “I have about a million tubes of lipstick ” I’m a make-up junkie. I’ve always been passionate about make-up, and it’s always been part of my career.”

While pursuing her entertainment career in California, Jerles-Blackwelder said she had “many successes and many near-successes.”

“I did a Fruit of the Loom commercial ” and I was not wearing underwear and I was not a piece of fruit,” she said. “I was in a T-shirt and shorts on a swing, and I made about $20,000 for a half-day of work.”

Even 16 years later, Jerles-Blackwelder receives royalty checks for one less lively role she played in a 1989 film.

“I’m still a paid actor,” she said, with a shiny, lip-gloss covered grin. “Just recently I got a $12 check in the mail. I didn’t realize playing a corpse could be so lucrative.”

After Los Angeles, Jerles-Blackwelder worked in Vail as an apres ski entertainer, and shared time between singing at piano bars in Aspen and Nashville before she and husband, Tom, relocated to Colorado.

“I missed Colorado so much. I really longed for Colorado,” said Jerles-Blackwelder, who met Tom, a builder, in Nashville in 1989. “Tom had previously investigated Colorado. We really did some soul searching. We weren’t sure if we wanted to live closer to family in Georgia and Tennessee.”

The couple chose to live near New Castle, by Harvey Gap, because Tom is an avid hunter and fisherman. The blonde former beauty queen with a Southern drawl likes to fish, too.

“I’m a devout daddy’s girl,” said Jerles-Blackwelder, an all-state softball player in high school, who grew up with two older brothers. “I’m a definite cross-section between a tomgirl and a girlie-girl. I love to fish.”

Jerles-Blackwelder was the Glenwood Springs Middle School music and drama teacher for three years before deciding to start her own business. She said the idea had been “brewing in her head” for years, until one day her husband asked her what she really wanted to do.

“I changed my path,” she said. “My dreams have evolved. I like writing music, and I like to be at home with my husband.”

The goal of Kiss n’ Make-up is to bring higher-end, yet affordable, cosmetics to Glenwood, which Jerles-Blackwelder said is lacking. But she also wants the store to be a fun place for females ages 5 to 105 to visit.

“I want Kiss n’ Make-up to be a tribute to any woman or girl who played dress-up when they were little ” and I don’t know who didn’t,” said Jerles-Blackwelder, whose 12-year-old stepdaughter’s hot pink lipstick kiss serves as the store’s logo. “We all know true beauty is inside of you, but it helps when you know you look good on the outside. It’s all about feeling good about who you are. It’s about being an individual and having fun with it.”

Contact April E. Clark: 945-8515, ext. 518

Name: Kelly Jerles-Blackwelder

Lives in: New Castle

Hometown: Perry, Ga.

Occupation: Owner, Kiss n’ Make-up cosmetic and accessories store, 823 Cooper Ave., Glenwood Springs, 384-0123

Family information: husband, Tom Blackwelder, four stepchildren

Something you may not have known: I was an all-state softball player in high school.

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