State pageant begins in earnest tonight

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 3, 2002

[07/03/02]Autograph parties continued and interviews began today as contestants prepared for tonight’s first round of on-stage competition in the 2002 Miss Mississippi pageant.

“The interview is so critical,” said president and chairman of the Miss Mississippi Corporation Dr. Briggs Hopson. “Everything we do in this pageant is giving experience.”

The 39 contestants will be narrowed to 10 before Saturday night’s finale and selection of a new state representative to the Miss America Pageant.

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Talent, swimwear, evening wear and on-stage interview competitions occur in front of n audience. The off-stage interviews with pageant judges are scheduled during the week and deemed a crucial measure of intellect and poise.

In scoring, personal interview has increased from 30 to 40 percent of the judging total. Talent has decreased from 40 to 30 percent. Evening wear and swimwear have both decreased from 15 percent to 10 percent. On-stage interview has been added in the scoring and will count 10 percent. Each contestant is asked one casual question and one question concerning her platform to answer in front of the audience.

“Years ago, it used to be about beauty, but it’s turned to education,” Hopson said. “We’re looking at all attributes.”

Tonight, Group A will compete in talent. The group features Miss Mississippi College Leslie Corkern of Jackson, a returning contestant. The 16-year baton twirler is the only one continuing what some consider a pageant tradition.

“It’s more entertaining, there’s more dancing,” Corkern said of her new routine. “I think the crowd will enjoy it.”

Corkern is a biology major at Mississippi College and will be a senior this fall.

Group B will compete in the swimwear portion. Miss Hattiesburg Keri Eubanks has been using Tae Bo tapes to get in shape for the pageant. She hopes that the hard work and hours of sweat will pay off.

“I’ve been walking and trying to have healthy meals,” she said. Eubanks graduated in May from the University of Southern Mississippi with a bachelor’s degree in speech communication.

Group C will compete in evening wear.

“Carriage and poise are very important,” said Miss Heartland Jauna Chatman of Memphis. She said that the most important aspect of evening wear is choosing a dress that is comfortable.

“The first time I tried it on, I knew this was the one,” Chatman said of the gown she will wear. She will graduate from the University of Mississippi this December with a bachelor’s degree in music and theater.

Judges for the competition are Sherye Simmons Green of Jackson; Gary Grubbs of Hattiesburg; Rick Pruitt of Little Rock, Ark.; Thad Smotherman of Artlington, Texas; and Laurie Gayle Stephenson of Ridgewood, N.J.

Each rates each contestant on a 1 to 10 scale in each event. The scores are then tallied and weighted by an accounting firm.