MISS MISSISSIPPIFirst timer, 2-year vet score wins

Published 1:02 am Saturday, June 30, 2012

A first-time competitor and a two-year veteran won the final round of preliminaries at the 55th annual Miss Mississippi Pageant in Vicksburg Friday night.

Miss Spirit of the South Jasmine Murray, a 20-year-old Columbus native, won the top spot in talent and Miss Delta Blues Ashley Hamby, a 19-year-old from Madison, took home the swimsuit title.

Murray performed her own rendition of “I’m Changing” from the movie Dream Girls.

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Murray said she worked with several vocal coaches to prepare for the pageant.

“It feels amazing, I’m so grateful,” Murray said. “Being on stage is the best feeling for me.”

Murray is a student at Mississippi State University studying communications and she was a top 13 finalist on American Idol. She will receive a $300 scholarship for winning the talent preliminary.

Hamby, who wore a blue two-piece swimsuit, is also a student at Mississippi State University studying communications.

“It’s an honor to be here,” Hamby said. “Now that I’m in these shoes, it’s an absolute honor.”

Hamby said eating right and working out were key to her preparation for the swimsuit competition.

“I cut out sugar and sweets, and I worked out every day in the gym with a trainer,” Hamby said. “I’m a dancer, so I worked out and danced.”

Hamby will take home a $200 scholarship for her preliminary win.

Miss Mississippi 2012 will be crowned in a live televised broadcast tonight and will advance to the Miss America Pageant to be held in Nevada at the Theatre for the Performing Arts on Jan. 12.

Tonight’s broadcast, set for 8 on WLBT-TV3, will begin with the announcement of the top 10 finalists.

Preliminary scores in talent, swimwear and questions, including on-stage and off-stage interviews, are combined to make a composite score, which determines the top 10. Those women will compete in every category except private interview tonight finalists whose names will be announced at the beginning of the final competition tonight.

The finalist will receive a composite score, with 30 percent for the overall; 30 for talent; 20 for evening wear; and 20 for swimsuit.

The preliminaries began Wednesday night.

The swimsuit winners were Miss West Central Mississippi Breanne Ponder, from Mount Olive Wednesday and Miss Natchez Trace Chelsea Rick Thursday. The talent winners were Miss Mississippi State University Stephanie Stanford from Grenada Wednesday and Miss Grace Claire Cordes from Vicksburg Thursday.

Ponder is a first-year contestant, and Rick is a four-year veteran. This is Stanford’s third year to compete, and Cordes is a newcomer.

Friday night’s show included the presentation of a plaque from the Miss America Organization celebrating 55 years of the pageant in Vicksburg and the recognition of former Miss Mississippi’s, including Imogene Allen, who was crowned in 1957.

The following year, Allen passed her crown and title of Miss Mississippi to Mary Ann Mobley, the first Miss Mississippi crowned in the River City.

Mobley went on to become the first Miss America from Mississippi. Three more Miss Mississippi winners have gone on to win the Miss America title — Lynda Lee Mead of Natchez in 1960, Cheryl Prewitt of Ackerman in 1980 and Susan Akin of Meridian in 1986.