Chelsea Rick prepares to end reign but will continue to serve state, its people
By Leslie Criss
TUPELO – Chelsea Rick wanted to be Miss Mississippi since she was a little girl.
“I’m not a pageant girl,” she said, then quickly offered an explanation. “I was not in any beauty pageants growing up, though I emceed a high school beauty pageant.”
But she watched, without fail, the Miss Mississippi pageants as a little girl. And her wise mother used it as a lesson.
“She told me those girls were not just beautiful,” Rick said. “She said they were smart, articulate, driven, talented, compassionate – a complete package. I wanted that. I loved that you could sing and dance on stage.”
The 24-year-old daughter of Rhonda and Clay Rick said her mother also constantly reminded her and her older brother, Trey, they were obligated to use their gifts.
It’s a reminder Rick has taken to heart and made a part of her life.
With fierce integrity, Rick said she also realized early that being ready for Miss Mississippi meant a way to get scholarship money for her education.
A 2012 graduate of Millsaps College, Rick served as Miss Mississippi while completing her first year of medical school at William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Fifth time’s a charm
Rick’s road to becoming Miss Mississippi was not without much work and determination. She was a state pageant contestant four times before taking on the tiara on the fifth try last year as Miss Amory Railroad Festival.
Certainly the journey is a testament to perseverance – “and to my mom.”
“She told me my whole life never to give up on childhood dreams,” Rick said.
Her year as Miss Mississippi has been filled with opportunities to reach out and serve others, something Rick has done most of her life.
In fact, her Miss Mississippi platform, “Full Plates, Healthy States,” aimed at fighting hunger in America and providing nutritious food for those without, got its start when Rick was 13.
“My mom has long been instilling in my brother and me to not judge others, because you never know what their experiences are,” Rick said. “She instilled in us a deep sense of empathy, and that it’s important to put compassion into action.”
Along with her lessons, Rhonda Rick sent her young daughter to work through Fulton United Methodist Church at the Itawamba County Food Pantry.
“I was eager to work, but I had no idea there were so many people in need,” Rick said. “This work set my soul afire for this issue of hunger. It was bewildering to me.”
She’s continued to work for a decade now with Harvey Clements, the Rev. James Price and the Rev. Glyn Wiygul at the food pantry.
“Going through all those years at the food pantry, it’s where I developed my affinity for service and a desire to make a difference,” Rick said.
And it’s where her Miss Mississippi platform got its start.
Attitude of gratitude
As Rick prepares to transfer her title to the next Miss Mississippi on Saturday in Vicksburg, she is eager to pass on her thankfulness to every person and every place that has contributed to who she is.
“I’m a Mississippi girl,” she said. “I’m a compilation of the experiences I’ve had here in Northeast Mississippi. The impact of the people here on me has made me what I am.”
With the ease and grace of a seasoned Miss Mississippi, Rick reels off a list of those people and places along with the reasons she’s grateful.
“The people of Fulton and Itawamba County; and I’m truly a product of the Itawamba County School System where they knew me as a person and not just a student. They invested in me. They were so relevant in my ability to go on to Millsaps; Fulton United Methodist Church; and also Tupelo.
“On weekends we’d head to Tupelo for dance, singing lessons (she started when she was 5), Tupelo Community Theatre – I was a mean orphan in ‘Annie’ when I was 9. In Tupelo, our cultural horizons were expanded. Artistic expression was important to my parents; the people of Amory who embraced me as their own and gave me the most lovely homecoming after the pageant.”
Coming a long way
The young woman who has spent the past year representing her state as Miss Mississippi has come a long way from the “shy, introverted Chelsea by nature” she once was.
“I owe a lot of that to my mother, and to my brother,” she said, laughing.
It was brother Trey who told their mother his sister could sing.
“My brother has always had the gift of gab,” Rick said. “He was a magician and would go around doing magic shows when we were younger. He’d try to get me out of my shell, and told my mother to put me in voice lessons.”
From Rick’s singing “Jesus Loves Me” in church when she was 6, to any other time she appeared on a stage, her mother’s words always accompanied her – “You are not shy Chelsea; this is Chelsea the performer.”
“I could not fathom having to talk to someone, but I felt liberated to be someone else on stage,” Rick said.
More to come
When Rick passes on the Miss Mississippi title Saturday night to another young woman, it won’t mark the end of her service to the state of her birth.
“Being Miss Mississippi has been an act of love for me,” she said. “I love Mississippi and its people. I’m very proud to be a Mississippian. I feel Mississippi is the perfect lens through which to see the human condition.”
When Rick makes her final walk as Miss Mississippi on Friday night in Vicksburg, she’ll sing “What I Did for Love” from the musical “A Chorus Line.”
“It will be bittersweet, the end of a chapter for me,” Rick said. “I achieved a childhood dream. It’s very humbling. It’s time to give another young woman a wonderful opportunity to give back to this state and receive tremendous amounts of love and kindness along the way.”
After this week’s pageant, Rick won’t be taking to the couch to rest on her laurels. She’ll be heading back to William Carey, where she has three more years of medical school.
“In 8th grade I knew I wanted to be an osteopathic physician,” she said. “The first tenet is to treat mind, body and spirit. I want to change the stigma for those who suffer with chronic pain.”
And she’ll definitely keep serving and doing in the community in which she finds herself.
“I want to practice medicine in Mississippi,” she said with certainty. “I want to help people in their lowest point. I plan to keep working on helping do something for hunger.
“I hope to keep singing and getting involved with community theater, have a family and just lead a multivocational life.”