Who Will be Mississippi’s Next Miss Hospitality? Meet the 36 Contestants

In its 24th year as host city, Hattiesburg is welcoming 36 young woman from across the state this week as they compete for the title of Mississippi’s Miss Hospitality and more than $100,000 in scholarships and prizes.

“The Mississippi Miss Hospitality program was created in 1949, and the winner of this annual competition serves as goodwill ambassador for economic development and tourism,” Marlo Dorsey, executive director of VisitHATTIESBURG, said at a Monday press conference.

Marlo Dorsey, executive director of VisitHATTIESBURG, welcomes contestants Monday at press conference in Hattiesburg. At front right is reigning Miss Hospitality McKay Lee Bray of Greene County.

The 72nd annual Mississippi Miss Hospitality competition, open to women ages 18-24, will take place at the historic Hattiesburg Saenger Theater, 201 Forrest St. Preliminary competitions are scheduled for 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday. The final competition is 8 p.m. Saturday.

Jane Granberry, who is representing Hattiesburg, said she didn’t get involved with pageants until her junior year of high school.

“I love serving in my community and representing in these ways,” Granberry said.

MaKayla Dillard is representing the city of Jackson. “I never imagined I’d be here. I was always the shy girl in class, and here I am with a loud voice representing the capital. I’m proud to do that.” 

McKay Lee Bray of Greene County, 2020 Mississippi Miss Hospitality, said it was an honor to be working with the Miss Hospitality program, adding it didn’t feel like a year had passed since she was crowned. Last year’s competition, featuring 10 women, was in a limited format due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Ward 1 Councilman Jeffery George speaks on Monday, July 12, 2021, at a press conference announcing details of the Miss Hospitality competition to be held in Hattiesburg, Miss.

Hattiesburg Ward 1 Councilman Jeffery George emphasized how the Miss Hospitality program highlights the best of Mississippi.

“Set yourself apart as someone who clearly believes in the future not only of your community but also the state of Mississippi,” George told the contestants Monday. “I would hope that you wouldn’t want to be here representing our state if that wasn’t the case.”

Michael Marks, former Mississippi Teacher of the Year and Hattiesburg Tourism Commission board member, also welcomed contestants Monday. 

“All of our state’s a stage for Mississippi’s Miss Hospitality. … People come to our state from the world over, sometimes looking to resurrect the past,” Marks said. “What I’ve learned is while they come looking for resurrections of the past, it often gives them and give us an opportunity to form a connection to the future.”

Dee Dee Anderson, vice president of student affairs at the University of Southern Mississippi speaks at a press conference on Monday, July 12, 2021, at the Saenger Theatre in Hattiesburg, Miss. She is joined, from left, by Hattiesburg Ward 1 Councilman Jeffery George and Michael Marks, former Mississippi Teacher of the Year and Hattiesburg Tourism Commission board member.

The contestants have a full week of events. Preliminary competition includes a panel interview, one-on-one interview and a Mississippi speech. On-stage competition includes community commercial, evening gown and interview.

A free autograph party will be held 12:30-2 p.m. Friday at Turtle Creek Mall for the public to meet the contestants, their Little Misses and 2020 Mississippi Miss Hospitality.

Awards announced Saturday will include the Spirit of Miss Hospitality, voted on by the contestants. The woman crowned  Mississippi Miss Hospitality will receive a $25,000 prize package.

Miss Hospitality 2021 contestants

  • Amite County: BrookLynn Bateman
  • Bay Springs: DaLakin Crawford
  • Booneville: Olivia Jackson
  • Brookhaven: Abby Smith
  • Covington County: Laka  Till
  • Ellisville: Keely Skellion
  • Greene County: Dasani Hill
  • Hattiesburg: Jane Granberry
  • Jackson: MaKayla Dillard
  • Jackson County: Chloe  Kirby
  • Jones County: Rivers  Johnson
  • Lamar County: Addison-Blair Dyess 
  • Lauderdale County: Alexis Hart
  • Laurel: Brinley Bullock
  • Lawrence County: Karlie Jordan
  • Leakesville: Amberlyn Holifield
  • Magee: Chloe White
  • Marion County: Kaitlyn Bradford
  • Mendenhall: Kacey Wallace
  • Meridian: Taylor Cook
  • Neshoba County: Landry Payne
  • New Albany: Becca Childers
  • Ovett: Kaityln Warden 
  • Petal: Grace Robbins
  • Pike County: Baleigh  Brumfield
  • Pontotoc County: Kassidy Young
  • Rankin County: Mallory Bunkley
  • Ridgeland: Sara Hederman
  • Smith County: Keelyn  Rogers
  • Starkville: Claire  Farmer
  • State Line: Anna Kate Wood
  • Tupelo: Taylor Kelly
  • Walthall County: Lundyn Huhn
  • Washington County: Grayce Redwine
  • Wayne County: Kaylee Davis
  • West Point: Anna Grace Reed

Contact reporter Laurel Thrailkill at lthrailkill@gannett.com or on Twitter.

If you go

Autograph party

  • When: 12:30 – 2 p.m. Friday
  • Where: Turtle Creek Mall at the Ulta and Chuck E. Cheese entrance
  • Cost: Free

Group A Preliminary On-stage Competition

Group B Preliminary On-stage Competition

Final On-stage Competition

  • When: 8 p.m. Saturday
  • Where: Historic Hattiesburg Saenger Theater in Downtown Hattiesburg
  • Tickets:  $20, Saegner Theater website

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