On Saturday Oct. 7, the University of Southern Mississippi held the 73rd annual Miss University of Southern Mississippi Scholarship Pageant. To participate in the pageant, contestants must be current full-time students of USM in good standing with the university and hold a minimum 2.25 GPA. The winner of the pageant won a $1500 scholarship.
This year, there were a total of nine contestants. Participants included: Brooke Bullock, Macken’z Smith, Felicity Slater, Larhonda Mack, Aaliyah Bass, Jessica Fields, Charli Cubbage, Macy Mitchell, and Taylor Robbins.
The competition began with an introduction to the contestants, followed by a swimwear showing, and special talent. The competition concluded with evening wear, which included an onstage question. Contestants were scored on their performance in each category. Prior to the competition each contestant had a private interview with the judges which was worth 25%, their talent performance was worth 30%, lifestyle and fitness 10%, evening wear worth 15%, and their response to the on-stage question was worth 20%. To tally the judges scores throughout the events were two auditors.
Five judges, each with their own connection to the university, made up the panel for this years competition. On the judges’ panel were Shea Kidd Houze, Ron Locke, Kyle Nixon, Stacey Neimeyer, and Amelia Rogers. Dr. Shea Kidd Houze is currently USM’s Director of New Student and Retention Programs and was named Miss USM in 2002.
The pageant first began in 1947 as a swim suit competition and has continued to flourish ever since. The Miss USM scholarship pageant is an official preliminary of the Miss Mississippi pageant. This means that the winner of Miss USM goes on to compete for the title of Miss Mississippi.
The contestants of the pageant had been preparing for months in advance. Charli Cubbage, a Junior Communications Studies major and contestant number 7, said that for the event, “we have to practice our talents and get our outfits together. We also have to eat healthy, workout, and stay up on current events.” Cubbage also said, “I love this university and Miss USM is a great way to represent it. It challenges me to be my best self.”
Aaliyah Bass, a Sophomore Broadcast Journalism major and contestant number 5, agreed that staying up on current events is very important. “We have to be prepared. We never know what kind of questions will be thrown at you,” she said. The onstage question and the private interview with the judges are said to be the most nerve-wracking part of the process because they are the most difficult to prepare for. Bass even said that she joined the competition to get out of her comfort zone and become more involved on campus.
The pageant was hosted by former USM SGA President Jeffrey George and two-time Miss USM winner Hannah Roberts Badon. George currently serves as a Councilman for the city of Hattiesburg. Badon was named Miss USM in both 2013 and 2015, and is currently studying medicine at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.
Macy Mitchell was crowned Miss University of Southern Mississippi 2017. Mitchell was crowned by last year’s winner, Kaelyn Wolfe, who during the competition performed a sample of her talent with a tap dance number. Macy Mitchell was previously named Miss USM in 2015.