Five women competed for the crown in the 74th annual Miss University of Southern Mississippi Scholarship Pageant Sunday, Nov. 11.
Macken’z Smith, senior speech pathology/audiology major, was crowned Miss University of Southern Mississippi and was awarded a $1,500 scholarship.
Smith is no stranger to the pageant world.
“This will be my fourth year competing in Miss Mississippi, so [I’ve been preparing] really all my whole life,” Smith said. “It’s a lifelong dream. As a student, it’s your dream to represent your university, and I’m just looking forward to this wild ride. I cannot wait to represent USM.”
Smith’s platform is centered around skin cancer prevention. She aims to teach others about how to best protect their skin and promote lifelong safety habits.
Smith said she hopes to raise awareness about skin cancer and prevention around campus.
“Whether it’s sunscreen dispensers or just getting student-athletes involved, I just want to make our whole campus safe,” Smith said.
Senior communication studies major Macy Mitchell was Miss USM in 2015 and 2017 and said she was happy for Smith.
“I’m so excited for Mcken’z,” Mitchell said. “She’s going to be a great representative for our university.”
Smith will go on to compete in the Miss Mississippi Pageant in Vicksburg in June.
Katelyn Brown, junior medical laboratory sciences major, was awarded first alternate and received a $700 scholarship.
The other contestants included Kylie Hungerford, Madalyn Oglesby and Felicity Slater.
Mike McDaniel, WDAM reporter, and Hannah Roberts, Miss University of Southern Mississippi 2013, hosted the event, along with Student Government Association co-directors of the Miss USM Pageant, Rachel Shoemaker and Destiny Chafin.
Sophomore communications major Shoemaker said SGA has been planning the Miss USM Pageant since the summer.
“We had our first meeting last July, so it’s been about six months of hard work,” Shoemaker said.
She said seeing everything come together was “the best feeling in the world.”
“We worked with the absolute best staff, absolute best directors, and we could not be more excited for our new Miss USM,” Shoemaker said.
The Miss USM Pageant is an official preliminary to the Miss Mississippi pageant. The winner of the Miss Mississippi Pageant will go on to compete in the Miss America pageant.
Before the pageant, the women had a private interview with the judges, which accounted for 25 percent of their score.
While Miss America announced the end of the swimsuit competition, the Miss USM pageant chose to include it in the fitness/lifestyle portion of the competition, which accounted for 10 percent of the score. The other sections included talent, evening wear and an on-stage response to a question pertaining to the contestants’ platforms.