Beyond Miss America: Miss Colorado attracts national attention, appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show |

Beyond Miss America: Miss Colorado attracts national attention, appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show

Allison Dyer Bluemel

While Windsor's Miss Colorado Kelley Johnson would have loved to take home the Miss America crown, she was given more than just a national title in the week following the competition.

She's paid off all her student loans from nursing school, she's met dozens of women who became her life-long friends during the Miss America competition and she placed as second-runner up at the same competition.

"I was just so honored to be chosen and then to continue to go that far," Johnson said.

Her appearance on the national competition also allowed the video of her talent — a monologue on an Alzheimer's patient that reminded her she was more than just a nurse — to go viral in the days following.

By Friday morning, the video had more than 4.9 million YouTube views.

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"(The monologue) was incredibly risky," she said. "I don't think everybody thinks that talents like that go that far, but I really believed in it from the start."

While she received some criticism for the decision to stray from more traditional talents — like singing or dancing — she's seen hundreds of thousands of comments about the positive impact of her story, which focused on a patient of hers with Alzheimer's.

"As a family, the experience (of Miss America) would have been great," said Gene Haffner, director of public relations for Banner Health North Colorado Medical Center and Johnson's stepfather. "But in a lot of ways we have the best of all worlds, and her message has unexpectedly blown up."

Johnson said she hopes the monologue will remind those who watched the show and those streaming it in the days after to appreciate and thank the nurses in their lives and give those in the nursing community a greater voice on a national level.

"It's really cool to see the nursing community has a promotional voice," said Johnson's mother, Julie Johnson Haffner, the executive director of the Banner Health McKee Medical Center Foundation.

The exposure for both her monologue and her response to who the female face of the $10 bill should be — Ellen DeGeneres — also landed her a spot on DeGeneres's show Thursday.

The appearance came after fans of the show sent Ellen a clip of Johnson's answer.

"(That) was actually the best part of the entire show," DeGeneres joked during Thursday's show. "I personally think you should have won because that was a great answer."

In part of the interview, DeGeneres set up Johnson to compliment her under a five-second time limit.

After Johnson obliged, touching on her love of the host's philanthropic efforts and kindness, she told of her experience back stage of Miss America when a technician mentioned that her answer may get her on DeGeneres's show.

"I started crying that I might have a change to get on Ellen," Johnson said during the interview.

A big topic of discussion during her time on the show was her monologue, which garnered Johnson national attention both positively and negatively.

"It was brilliant," DeGeneres said.

While their comments on its trending on social media and uniting nurses took up most of the time, the pair did not touch on the negative comments the speech received by hosts on The View earlier this week.

"It's about (the other nurses), not about me," Johnson said during the interview.

The comments caused nurses across the country to rally behind Johnson and share their stories and the importance of what they do.

"That's a very important job and you're doing a very important thing and you care about those people, which I loved," DeGeneres said.

To further thank Johnson for her work, DeGeneres and a sponsor of the show, Shutterfly, provided Johnson with $10,000 for her continued education in addition to the $37,000 she had won in scholarship money through Miss Colorado and Miss America.

"It's just insane, and it's such a blessing," Johnson said. "I don't even know how many thank-you notes I can write."

She said she hopes to use the money that would have otherwise gone to loan payments for travel after her time as Miss Colorado ends in nine months.

But in addition to scholarship money and exposures, Johnson formed lifelong friendships with her fellow contestants.

"I was really close with a lot of women who I will, no doubt, be close to the rest of my life," she said.

So close, in fact, Johnson laughed, many of them could end up in her bridal party and meeting her future kids.

"It was definitely competitive toward the end of the week, but as the night went on, they were still cheering us on, and it was really humbling to make these real and true friendships," she said.

Miss Colorado’s scholarships

– $10,000 for further education from Ellen DeGeneres

– $20,000 for her win Sunday as second-runner up

– $5,000 for a STEM award

– $3,000 for being a Miss America contestant

– $1,000 for academics

– $8,000 for Miss Colorado win