Seawright returns to the Miss Mississippi Pageant as a judge

Published 8:25 am Thursday, June 22, 2017

In 1987, Toni Seawright of Moss Point came to Vicksburg and was crowned Miss Mississippi, the first African American to earn that honor.

This week, Seawright will help decide who gets to wear that crown, and more importantly, who moves on to represent Mississippi in the Miss America Pageant.

“We are looking for a Miss America,” Seawright said. “I know the burning desire I had to represent my state in the Miss America pageant. I can see that same fire and desire in quite a few of these contestants, and it makes me want to root for them. These girls are awesome.”

This trip is Seawright’s third time to return to Vicksburg since earning her crown.

“I came back 10 years ago for the 50th (anniversary of the pageant in Vicksburg). Everyone is asking me if I’m going to sing, but I’m not singing this year,” she said.

“I am having so much fun. We judges were talking today about how we are feeling a sense of transference. I remember all of the anxiety and the excitement that they are feeling. These are smart, resilient, confident women. They are all trailbrazers in their own right. I can’t wait for Saturday.”

Seawright lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., and has enjoyed a career as an actress, singer and songwriter. She is a veteran of plays and musical theater, and recently formed her own company, partnering with two others, to perform at corporate parties, bar mitzvahs, weddings and the like.

In addition, Seawright is a realtor and expects to get her own brokerage “very soon.”

Her sons, Qaasim Middleton and Kahlil Middleton, are also actors. Qaasim Middleton made it to the top 8 of American Idol, and both were most recently in Netflix’s The Get Down.

“I am thankful for the opportunity I had to represent my state. My sons are a direct product of my winning Miss Mississippi. They are here with me this week, and they are grateful, too.”

Only two other African American women have held the crown of Miss Mississippi. Yet, Seawright said the number of African American women who are competing for this year’s title encourages her.

“I am real excited to see more African American women have come out to compete. These are wonderful ladies. No matter their race, they all have such tenacity,” she said. “Anyone can win this crown.”

Seawright was the first African American woman to earn a degree in music from Mississippi University for Women. She was also the first African American woman to be crowned Miss Mississippi University for Women.

She and her twin sister, Tina, were born at Singing River Hospital in Pascagoula, and were the first African American babies allowed into that hospital’s nursery.

On Sunday, Seawright will celebrate her 53rd birthday.