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Miss Mississipppi ready for next leg of competition

Miss Mississippi 2001

Becky Pruett

[07/16/01] The Miss Mississippi pageant’s done, but the work has just begun for Miss Mississippi 2001 Becky Pruett as she and the Miss Mississippi staff feverishly prepare her for a trip to Atlantic City and her competition to become Miss America.

“Half the battle’s won, but it’s still not over,” Pruett said at a press conference Sunday afternoon. “We haven’t had a Miss America since 1985. Mississippi’s due.”

Pruett, 22, said she wasn’t nervous as she and Miss West Central Robyn Davis stood together Saturday night as the two finalists for Miss Mississippi 2001.

“Either way, the state was going to win,” said Pruett, who won talent and swimwear preliminaries. “She’s such a great contestant. I told her it’d be the state’s loss if she didn’t come back and compete again.”

Pruett first became interested in pageants in 1996 as she watched her sister compete in the Miss Mississippi Pageant.

“I saw her transformed into an elegant, young lady on stage,” she said. “And I figured if the pageant could do that for her, why not take a shot at it?”

And according to Pruett’s mother, Judie Pruett, Miss Mississippi’s childhood was anything but elegant.

“She was a little tomboy growing up,” said Judie Pruett, who now works in Western Africa as a medical attache. “All the other girls were playing with Barbie, she was playing with Skelator and He-Man.”

But things change, and just a year after watching her sister on stage, Pruett competed in her first Miss Mississippi Pageant as a high school senior.

Then, after competing in the pageant for three years, Pruett decided she needed a year away from pageant life.

During that year, she served as an intern for then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott in Washington.

“I knew I needed to focus and mature,” she said. “I watched Christy May get crowned that year, and I knew the right girl had won.”

But Pruett said she couldn’t stand to be away from the pageant for long. Aside from her own self-described perfectionist nature, Pruett was pushed to return by letters she received from other contestants encouraging her to take at least one more shot at the title.

She came back this year as Miss Deep South.

“I knew she was special and I knew she would do well,” said Terry Fleming, who has been Miss Deep South pageant director for nine years. “But I didn’t want to get my hopes up. I knew she had all the tools to be Miss Mississippi.”

Pruett said her attitude about winning has changed since she first competed.

“When I first saw the crown, it sparkled and it was pretty, and that was my reason for wanting the title,” she said. “Now, I see the sparkle in a child’s smile asking for an autograph. The prize at the end changed. I think the people that are in it for the crown and the dresses are in it for all the wrong reasons.”

Pruett, a USM graduate, had planned to attend Emory University this fall, but that will have to wait for at least a little while longer. She will spend the next six weeks living in Vicksburg and preparing for the Miss America competition that begins Sept. 18.

“Any girl will tell you, the wonderful thing about Miss Mississippi is that there isn’t a state that prepares you more than Mississippi,” she said.

And one of the biggest things for which she must prepare will be the talent competition.

She’ll have to find a new song for Miss America because “Man of La Mancha,” which she performed here last week, has been reserved by Miss Texas. But, Pruett seems unfazed.

“If I was limited to just one song, I wouldn’t be very talented, would I?”