The other crown at Miss Mississippi: The story of the Queen Mothers

Published 4:00 am Sunday, July 23, 2023

A new Miss Mississippi was crowned at the Vicksburg Convention Center on June 10, and news of Miss Hattiesburg Vivian O’Neal winning the state title was publicized on TV, in print media and online.

However, unknown to most, another crowning was held that very night and at the very same place: The crowning of the Miss Mississippi hostesses’ Queen Mother.

For those not familiar with the Miss Mississippi hostesses, they are a group of women who play a vital role in the Miss Mississippi organization. Each year, the all-volunteer group is assigned a delegate or delegates during the week of the Miss Mississippi competitions for whom they will transport to and from events while also providing assistance with any needed last-minute emergencies. Theoretically, these hostesses become surrogate mothers to their assigned delegates, thus the term Queen Mother.

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This notion for the Miss Mississippi hostesses to crown one of their own started in 2006 and after nearly 20 years, continues.

To earn the title of Queen Mother, one may think a hostess has to engage in competitions. But there is no talent competition, nor does a hostess need waltz across the stage in an evening gown or interview with judges. No, the only requirement necessary is that she be the hostess to the newly crowned Miss Mississippi.

Mary Beth Grogan-White, who now serves as the Miss Mississippi organization’s hostess director, was the first Queen Mother to be crowned.

“When I got crowned, Taryn Foshee won (Miss Mississippi),” Grogan-White said, and the crowning was held at the VCC in an upstairs room that allows the hostesses a bird’s eye view of competition.

The Queen Mother crowning has continued to take place in the same location.

Holding the record for being crowned Queen Mother is long-time Miss Mississippi hostess Rhonda Minor. She has earned the title three times and each time, Minor said it has been “exciting.”

“You have gone through the week, and nobody knows who’s going to be the new Miss Mississippi,” Minor said. “So when they call your girl’s name, it’s exciting.”

Minor added that acting as (a delegate’s) “mother away from home” is also fulfilling because there is the opportunity to spend time with her throughout the week as well as have the chance to give support.

“You get to encourage her in every way you can, and you can pray with her,” Minor said.

This year, because of personal scheduling conflicts, Grogan-White said, two women are sharing the title of Queen Mother: Lana Fuller and Johnna Riddick.

Fuller, who was hostess during the day for O’Neal said winning the title of Queen Mother has been amazing.

“This is only my second year (as hostess) so this is incredible, especially since we had the queen and the first runner-up, (Miss Leaf River Valley, Neeley Robertson),” Fuller said.

Riddick, who is also in her second year volunteering, and who had the opportunity to be present for the Queen Mother crowning since she served as hostess for the evening shift, said winning the title was exciting.

“It was very exciting, and it didn’t really hit me until I sat down,” Riddick said.

Much like the Miss Mississippi Competition, where the outgoing winner crowns her successor, Miss Mississippi Hostess Cissy Carter, who served as 2022 Queen Mother, had the honor of crowning Riddick.

When not in use, Grogan-White said the crown is kept in a “little wooden box,” and on the inside are the names of all the Queen Mothers.

“We sign the inside of the box with our name and what year and which girl we had,” she said.

The winner is also presented with a sash.

Perhaps the biggest perk of becoming Queen Mother are the duties she will have the following year: Serving as hostess to Miss Mississippi.

About Terri Cowart Frazier

Terri Frazier was born in Cleveland. Shortly afterward, the family moved to Vicksburg. She is a part-time reporter at The Vicksburg Post and is the editor of the Vicksburg Living Magazine, which has been awarded First Place by the Mississippi Press Association. She has also been the recipient of a First Place award in the MPA’s Better Newspaper Contest’s editorial division for the “Best Feature Story.”

Terri graduated from Warren Central High School and Mississippi State University where she received a bachelor’s degree in communications with an emphasis in public relations.

Prior to coming to work at The Post a little more than 10 years ago, she did some freelancing at the Jackson Free Press. But for most of her life, she enjoyed being a full-time stay at home mom.

Terri is a member of the Crawford Street United Methodist Church. She is a lifetime member of the Vicksburg Junior Auxiliary and is a past member of the Sampler Antique Club and Town and Country Garden Club. She is married to Dr. Walter Frazier.

“From staying informed with local governmental issues to hearing the stories of its people, a hometown newspaper is vital to a community. I have felt privileged to be part of a dedicated team at The Post throughout my tenure and hope that with theirs and with local support, I will be able to continue to grow and hone in on my skills as I help share the stories in Vicksburg. When asked what I like most about my job, my answer is always ‘the people.’

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