If you would have told Aiya Kelley fifteen years ago that she would win two pageants and run for the Oklahoma State Senate—she would have laughed at you. The 47-year-old Guthrie native only began competing in pageants one year ago and now holds two titles: Mrs. Oklahoma Regency International in 2018 and most recently, Young Mrs. International 2019. She also ran for the Oklahoma State Senate in 2018.
“I have a really good friend who suggested that I enter the pageant. I said, ‘No, you need to enter this pageant.’ She replied by telling me that if I entered this year, she would enter next year,” Kelley explained. “I knew this was the only way I could get her to do this, but I really had no idea I would win Mrs. Oklahoma for Regency International.”
The first time Kelley made an appearance with her crown on, she was approached and asked to run for state Senate.
“That was another time that my mouth dropped open,” Kelley said. “I felt I wasn’t a person to run for political office even though I love politics and what it means to our country—the freedom to vote and choose good leaders. Through that, I saw that the crown offered so many opportunities for me to work harder on things that I am passionate about. I decided to continue the journey to see where it would take me.”
While Kelley did not win a state Senate seat, she would go on to win another title—Young Mrs. International 2019. Her platform is titled, “Standing Tall Through it All,” which focuses mainly on domestic violence.
“I was very much a pleaser most of my life,” Kelley shared. “I felt I had to have a doormat personality just to be accepted. It put me in a position to be easily abused. When I turned 35, I decided that was going to stop.”
At that point, the pendulum really swung and Kelley wondered if she would ever quit feeling angry. Martial Arts became a big part of her life and Kelley is very proud she escaped that part of her life and is now able to help others. Her daughter, Carolina, wrote many Mother’s Days ago that she “saw her mother go from victim to warrior” which makes Kelley proud.
Kelley is the daughter of Reverend William and Carol Thorn of Guthrie. They have played a huge part of her life.
“I often say that my parents are my biggest heroes and my biggest fans. They’re aging. My mom is eighty-six and just broke her hip. My dad had a pacemaker put in two weeks later,” Kelley said. “I sat in the hospital with him and I told him, ‘you realize I do have people who love me, but you two have loved me for my entire life.’”
During her state Senate race, the staffers went out every morning to diners and various places and campaigned on her behalf.
Kelley said, “Everything that I am, is owed first to God, and then to my parents. Growing up in Japan, there were only three options for school. They drove quite a way to put me in good schools. They’re my biggest support system.”
As a single mom of seventeen years, Kelley’s life has revolved around her daughter Carolina. She wanted to give her daughter every opportunity she could because she made Kelley’s life worth living. She credits Carolina with helping her get to where she is because she wanted to leave good footsteps for her to follow.
Her husband, George has been a huge support, too. “He’s just a rock. He’s so kind. Whatever needs to be done, he’s there to do it,” Kelley expressed.
Kelley began piano lessons at age five and explained that music is another passion of hers. She has been a church director for many years, obtained both bachelor’s and master’s degrees at the University of Central Oklahoma, taught music at Langston University for eleven years, and is currently the director of music for Lakeside United Methodist Church in Oklahoma City.
According to Kelley, one of her greatest strengths is that she loves people. She has completed over 1,899 ½ hours (that she can remember) of community service work in the past year.
“I shared with my daughter that life is short at its longest. There are so many things that drag us back and pull us down, and that’s what they are meant to do. We have to leave those behind and focus on the goal. My motto has always been to leave everywhere I go better than I found it and to leave every person I meet happier than when I met them,” Kelley shared.
Kelley was born and raised in Okinawa, Japan and is a naturalized citizen. She has also traveled to many other countries and ended by saying, “America is the number one country. We’re the model country and I’m very grateful to be a citizen here.”