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.