I was never a fan of the Miss Mississippi Pageant. There, I said it.
The Vicksburg Daily News was involved in the pageant because it is such a big deal for Vicksburg. We cover the news whether we like it or not, agree with it or not, including Miss Mississippi. We don’t have an agenda other than to let people know what is going on around town. FYI, it’s going well.
The Miss Mississippi Pageant has been an integral part of our community for going on eight decades now. It provides a huge economic boost to the community in addition to being a rallying point for the community and the participants earn scholarship money. In fact, Mississippi raises more scholarship money for Miss Mississippi than any other state raises.
For most of those 8 decades, there was a sexist nature to the pageant and even though it provided scholarship money to the contestants, it just didn’t feel right.
I didn’t get involved in the pageant until we had to cover it with the Vicksburg Daily News. At last year’s event, we discovered they had removed the swimsuit competition. It turns out they had removed that from the program in 2018.
A story in the Clarion Ledger that year quoted Regina Hopper, president and CEO at that time:
“Miss America’s new mission statement is: ‘To prepare great women for the world, and to prepare the world for great women,’ said Regina Hopper, president & CEO. “We want more young women to see this program as a platform upon which they can advance their desire to make a real difference and to provide them with the necessary skills and resources for them to succeed in any career path they choose.”
This year I paid attention to the contest. Part of my job was to assist the brilliant Alex Long in interviewing each of the candidates as they arrived at the contest.
I filmed while she spoke with them. We had the talented Dimitri Fevrier get photos of all the events the candidates did during the week and stayed close to the contest; it was fun. Saturday night was great with a new Miss Mississippi named and Sunday morning each press outlet gets 15 minutes or so with the new Miss Mississippi.
The interview with Miss Mississippi, Emmie Perkins, impacted me. We asked Emmie, at one point, to just say whatever you feel like saying. So she did.
“I’m five-one, I’m not your typical model or six-foot beauty queen,” said the newly crowned Perkins. “When I was in the fourth grade I struggled with severe acne my whole life. And I wanted to share this story once I became Miss Mississippi if I was granted the opportunity. But, I didn’t always feel beautiful. I was bullied in middle school for my acne. I remember a kid looking at me and saying, ‘you know, you have so much acne that it’s hard to even look at it,” explained Perkins while looking away, seemingly reliving the moment. “I’ll never forget that moment and I’ll never forget how it made me feel. And, so, I want girls to realize, this is where I am today. I haven’t always been at the place I am, I haven’t always been the confident young woman I am.”
Wow. This is Miss Mississippi. A Queen is saying these things.
“It takes years of growth, it takes life experience, it takes meeting a role model to make you realize that beauty comes from within. That beauty is something that we build as we grow. And I’m proud to be a Miss Mississippi that can be transparent about the things that make me Emmie Perkins.”
“I want to make people feel important. I want to use music as my anthem,” explained Perkins.
“There was an elderly man in an assisted living facility, he had dementia. And we were all doing my program, ‘Memories with Maracas’ and he was slumped over in the back of the room. At the very end of the program, we sang ‘Ava Maria.’ He heard ‘Ava Maria’ and he sits up in his chair and he begins singing in this operatic voice. And he hadn’t been alert the entire time. I asked his nurse what happened to him. She goes he was a former opera singer when he was young. He has dementia but his memories have been unlocked. I’d unlocked some of his earliest memories from some of the best times of his life.”
“As Miss Mississippi, if I can do that to a handful of people and walk away from this year, I’ve done my job. If I can have more stories just like that one, then I am doing it right. The music is working. Music sees no age, no background, no race and no socio-economic background either. I want to promote that as Miss Mississippi.”
“I’m a listener, I’m reliable, I’m authentic and I care about the people of this state and the things that this state represents. I care about the fact that we are the birthplace of America’s music and I want to promote that message to the world and make everybody I encounter feel like they’re somebody. We’re fighting for a better Mississippi, for a more united Mississippi and a more united world.”
I believe her.
This authentic and eloquently spoken woman is a product of the Miss Mississippi contest. If this is what that program produces, or even just spotlights, then it is, in my opinion, a worthy program we all should support.
Emmie Perkins being raw and authentic changed my opinion of Miss Mississippi and Miss America. Long may the Emmie Effect reign.See a typo? Report it here.