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GUIZERIX: My time as Miss America

As I squeezed my mother’s hand and walked up the school steps, I used my other hand to straighten my tiara.

Before we entered the building, she straightened my sash and made sure my beauty queen wave was perfected. My mother dabbed a little bit of her good red lipstick on my lips, and it was showtime. At Bay Minette Elementary School’s Famous American Day in 2000, I was Miss America.

Other little girls dressed up as American figures some might consider more traditional, like Betsy Ross or Harriet Tubman or Nancy Kerrigan. One girl even donned an Abraham Lincoln costume, complete with a full beard and stovepipe hat. Not me, though — I had my eye on the prize.

During the school-wide parade, I clutched my bouquet of roses in one hand, waved like a princess with the other, and swished my red sequin dress back and forth with each step. As far as I was concerned, it was the role I was born to play.

Being only five years old, I’d never heard of Miss America or all she represented, but I think my mother inspired me to learn about the role because of the positive example the women competing for the title set for young girls.

Yes, the candidates were beautiful, and yes, they were exceptionally fit and slender, but they were also kind people. They were strong leaders, real-life princesses with a purpose. As a small child with leadership potential who was often accused of being bossy, Miss America was someone I could look up to as a role model.

With the advent of the “Miss America 2.0” competition format, the elimination of swimsuit competitions and a greater emphasis on philanthropic works, Miss America is someone I can still admire and be proud of today.

In her first interview with The Post following her win, Miss Mississippi Holly Brand described being a young girl, not so different from the little girl I was, who looked up to Miss America and fell in love with the pageantry and advocacy opportunities holding a title provides.

We should all take pride in having such a service-minded individual to represent our state for the upcoming year and ultimately compete in the Miss America competition.

Now, standing in the same shoes as my mother did more than 20 years ago, I know when my headstrong little girl needs a real-life princess to look up to, I can point her to the Miss Mississippis of this world.