Saltillo resident seeks Miss Mississippi crown

Pageant on TV
- WLOV (Tupelo) will televise the Miss Mississippi Scholarship Pageant from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. Saturday.

By Bobby Pepper
Lee County Neighbors

Corie Stanford was convinced her days as a pageant contestant were over.
After her third top-10 finish in last year’s Miss Mississippi Scholarship Pageant, Stanford thought maybe it was time to turn in the tiaras, the evening gowns and the swimwear. This is, until the Saltillo resident started second-guessing herself.
“I wasn’t going to do it unless my whole heart was into it and if I was going to give it 110 percent,” Stanford said. “I would not have been doing it in the first place for three years if it wasn’t something I wanted. I had nothing but opportunities in front of me and everyone behind me. I didn’t want to look back someday and realize that I missed an opportunity,”
Not wanting to kick herself years from now, Stanford returned to the pageantry. She won the first event she entered, earning her a place in Miss Mississippi for the fourth consecutive year.
Stanford, who has wowed past Miss Mississippi crowds and judges with her singing, is in Vicksburg this week with 46 other title winners for preliminary competition. The crowning takes place Saturday night at the Vicksburg Convention Center.
“I really didn’t know how much I wanted it until I stepped back, looked at the whole picture and realized this is what I want to do,” she said. “I want to be Miss Mississippi.”

Late entrant
Stanford, 22, qualified for Miss Mississippi by taking the title of Miss Dixie, one of 14 “open” pageants affiliated with the Miss Mississippi Corp. The open pageant contestants aren’t limited by specific residential boundaries or college enrollment.
The Miss Dixie Pageant, based in Pontotoc, was Stanford’s first open win. She’s previously represented Itawamba Community College (2006), Tupelo (2007) and Mississippi State University (2008) at the state pageant.
The Saltillo High School alumna had little time to earn her spot in Vicksburg. The local pageants that determine Miss Mississippi delegates take place between late October and the end of February. The Miss Dixie Pageant was on Feb. 14.
“It was one of the last ones,” said Stanford while taking a break from wardrobe and talent rehearsals at the Pontotoc Middle School auditorium. “I was putting it off and questioning myself whether or not my heart was in it, and then I realized I do want to be Miss Mississippi. So, I jumped in at the last minute. I decided a week before Miss Dixie to try again, and luckily for me I won.”
Stanford said she’s been “preparing nonstop” for Miss Mississippi, especially after her May graduation from Mississippi State University with a degree in communications.
“I’ve been on the road trying to prepare myself and get everything together,” said Stanford, who maintains an apartment in Starkville. “But because I’ve been so busy, I really don’t think I have a home anywhere. The road is my home. I’m running between Starkville, Saltillo, Pontotoc, Tupelo, Memphis, Birmingham, Columbus, Little Rock, Vicksburg, Jackson. I may have been home two days a week, maybe. We’ve been going a lot. I’ve been more consumed with it and worrying about preparing for it than I’ve ever been.”
Stanford also made a major sacrifice before returning to the pageant scene.
“I tell people I got a little too friendly with the pizza places in Starkville,” she said, then laughed. “I had to end that relationship and join the gym again. And that’s why I’ve been working my butt off, literally.”

Ready for the pageant
Stanford has made a name for herself at Miss Mississippi with her vocal talent. She claimed with talent preliminary wins in 2006 and 2008, earning her a spot among the 10 finalists in the Saturday evening competition.
Laura Franklin, director of the Miss Dixie and Miss Pontotoc pageants, has seen Stanford in Vicksburg the past three years. Now that she’s working with Stanford this year, Franklin has been impressed with Stanford’s focus to improve herself in all categories: talent, swimwear, evening gown, interview and on-stage question. Preliminary competition for Miss Mississippi began Tuesday.
“All we’ve done this year is make her the best she can be in all areas,” Franklin said. “We know her talent is singing, but we’ve worked with her on every area. She’s been so committed. It’s been a pleasure working with her.”
Stanford is glad she gave Miss Mississippi another shot. Stepping away from it and then returning has given her a greater appreciation of what it takes to get to Vicksburg. She adds a person considering the same goal can’t do it half-heartedly or be pressured into it.
“You have to be blessed with a lot of people behind you, and you need to do what makes you happy,” she said. “You don’t need to do the pageant unless it’s what you want to do. You need to get out there, be yourself and make yourself happy. That’s pretty important.”
After ending her brief “retirement” from pageantry, Stanford is hoping her fourth attempt at the Miss Mississippi crown is the final one.
“Preparing for this is a job, and this is a job I want,” she said. “We hope it’s my last trip to Miss Mississippi. We hope this is it.”

Contact Neighbors Editor Bobby Pepper at (662) 678-1592 or at bobby.pepper@djournal.com

Bobby Pepper/Lee County Neighbors