MISS MISSISSIPPI Veteran, newcomer take first-night wins

Published 11:30 am Thursday, June 28, 2012

A veteran and newcomer were the winners in the first night of preliminary competition at the 55th annual Miss Mississippi Pageant Wednesday night.

Twenty-one-year-old Miss Mississippi State University Stephanie Stanford from Grenada won the talent preliminary and received a $300 scholarship with her performance of “Don’t Rain on My Parade” from the 1964 musical “Funny Girl.”

Stanford said she’s hoping this year’s competition, her third, is the charm.

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Stanford is a senior at MSU studying biochemistry with her eye on medical school. She said she practiced her song and stage presence every day in preparation for the night’s competition.

Miss West Central Mississippi Breanne Ponder, a 22-year-old from Mount Olive who holds a communications degree from the University of Southern Mississippi, won the swimsuit preliminary and a $200 scholarship.

“I didn’t expect to win the swimsuit preliminary,” said Ponder, who added she eats what she wants. “I had cheesecake yesterday,” she said.

She said she did lots of ab and cardio workouts in preparation.

“I’m not a member of a gym,” she said “I just worked out at home.”

The theme for this year’s pageant is Once Upon a Crown, and the first night of competition ran without a hitch with newcomers producer Amy Jackson and director of choreography Chesley Lambiotte.

“For Good” from the hit musical “Wicked” was performed by 1962 Miss Mississippi Charlotte Ann Carroll, and the 85 princes and princesses ages 7 through 10 performed during the swimsuit portion of the competition.

Preliminary competition will continue tonight and Friday at the Vicksburg Convention Center. Miss Mississippi 2012 will be crowned Saturday night at the center.

A composite score from the three preliminary competitions in talent, swimwear, evening wear, on-stage questions and off-stage interviews will determine who will be in the top 10, which will be announced at the beginning of the final competition on Saturday night.

The state pageant, which is a preliminary for the Miss America competition in January, is in Vicksburg for the 55th consecutive year.