Miss Mississippi 2011- Overcoming Adversity - MSNewsNow.com - Jackson, MS

Miss Mississippi 2011- Overcoming Adversity

The young women who compete for the Miss Mississippi crown are in Vicksburg this week hoping to represent this state at the Miss America Pageant. We talked with some of the contestants about what motivated them to seek the title and why what they do is important for them and for Mississippi.

Miss Vicksburg, Elyssa Lassiter says she is not what most people think of when they think of pageant girls. She adds most of the contestants on the Miss Mississippi stage are not just pageant girls.

"Not long ago I lived an existence without significant regard for my health. The doctors thought I had lupus and rheumatoid arthritis and I also had leukopenia which is a low white blood cell count, but the catalyst for my change was when I almost gained 10 pounds in a week", said Lassiter. 

Miss North Central Mississippi, Mary Margaret Roark says she understands the mis-conception about the pageant system.

"When somebody approached me and said you should really do the Miss Mississippi pageant I literally started laughing, I said I'm not a beauty pageant person, I ride horses and I like to run cross country, I don't walk in high heels, and when I found out more about it, that it is for women who have passion, women who are talented, women who want to be progressive that's when I really got interested", Roark said.

Miss Vicksburg says there were many obstacles for her but she hopes others will see her as a reminder of what perseverance and determination can do.

"I've been living a life dedicated to health and fitness and I'm urging others to do the same thing", said Lassiter.

Jill Duckworth, Miss University of Southern Mississippi says participating in the pageant gave her the opportunity to work with the Diabetes Foundation of Mississippi to help find a cure for the disease.

"My dad,  Billy Duckworth has had type 1 juvenile diabetes since he was 11 years old so it is kinda how I got started", Duckworth said.

Judges interviews began Monday morning for the contestants. Many say this is one of the most important phases of the competition. They are excited about meeting and talking with Patrick House, the winner of NBC's, "The Biggest Loser",  who is one of the judges who will help decide which contestant will represent Mississippi at the Miss America Pageant.

Monday night the annual parade of contestants began at 7pm in Downtown Vicksburg on Washington Street. Preliminary competition begins Wednesday night at the Vicksburg Convention Center.

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