Governor Bill Haslam, Miss America 2012 Laura Kaeppeler and the Miss America Organization Chairman of the Board Sam Haskell will be among the special guests at the 60th Anniversary Miss Tennessee Pageant in Jackson this week, but the stars of the celebration will be the 36 local representatives vying for the coveted title including 10 with direct connections to the Chattanooga area.
The three rounds of preliminaries start Wednesday night and continue through Friday as a prelude to Saturday’s finale when outgoing Miss Tennessee Erin Hatley crowns her successor at evening’s end. The pageant will be webcast all four nights on http://www.livestream.com/eplustv6 starting at 9 p.m. ET/ 8 CT.
24 Miss Tennessee alumni will be returning to Jackson including Soddy-Daisy’s winners Stefanie Wittler (2009) and Jamie Watkins Davenport (2002) who now resides in Knoxville. Miss Tennessee 1982 Desiree Daniels will also be attending but she will be in a dual role this year as a pageant parent since her daughter Hannah Disterdick will be representing Shelby County.
Miss Disterdick, 23, is a newly-minted registered dietician after completing her internship at David Lipscomb University in Nashville. She received her Bachelor of Science in Nutrition at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville one year ago and is a graduate of Soddy-Daisy High School. Her community service platform is HEAL (Healthy Eating, Active Living). While she is making her debut on the Miss Tennessee stage at the Carl Perkins Civic Center, Miss Disterdick was the 2007 Tennessee’s Junior Miss. She became Miss Shelby County in December, a local title that is open statewide to eligible contestants.
Ironically, her Junior Miss successor Chandler Lawson is once again competing as Miss Chattanooga in this year’s pageant. Miss Lawson was the first runner-up last year as she narrowly missed being the first Miss Chattanooga to outright win the Miss Tennessee title in 63 years.
A native of Tullahoma, the 22-year-old Miss Lawson recently graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with her Bachelor’s in Political Science. She has been accepted into the University Of Tennessee School Of Law where she plans to begin her studies in the Fall. She started the non-profit organization 5 Loaves for Kids while she attended Tullahoma High School to help reduce childhood hunger in her hometown.
Miss Lawson is one of the four women representing the Miss Tennessee local franchise Scenic City Pageants which attracts contestants statewide at the annual October event. Her co-crowns, all of whom have previously competed at the state level are Miss Metropolitan Ashley Sizemore of Knoxville, Miss Scenic City Kyndall Covington of Memphis and Miss Tennessee Valley Sarah-Taylor Argo of Murfreesboro.
Miss Sizemore, 23, graduated from UT-Knoxville earlier this month with her Bachelor’s in Sociology. She was named the Best Female Vocalist at UT’s 2011 All-Sing competition and is a self-taught guitarist. Miss Sizemore will be making her second Miss Tennessee trip after being a top 10 finalist two years ago. A Certified Personal Trainer, she wants to obtain her graduate degree in Elementary Education. Her platform is “Create to Conquer” which encourages students to foster creativity by using their imaginations.
Miss Covington, 21, was the fourth runner-up at last year’s pageant as the Metropolitan representative in her state debut. A senior majoring in Early Childhood Education at The University of Memphis, Miss Covington is also a vocalist who has been the opening act for singers Frankie Valli and Jim Ed Brown. She created “The Hero Project”, a character education program which she hopes to implement in schools statewide.
Miss Argo, 22, is competing for the fourth time at Miss Tennessee. She is a senior at Middle Tennessee State University majoring in Interdisciplinary Studies. Her career ambition is to become a middle school Mathematics educator. After being diagnosed with depression two years ago, she founded Educating Educators: Look, Listen and Love, a program that trains teachers to identify potential mental health issues among their students.
Miss Mountain Lakes Madyson Foster and Miss Tri-Cities Lindsay Anne Hanson won local competitions in Bristol, but the women also represent Bradley County in Jackson. Miss Foster, 20, a 2009 graduate of Cleveland High School, is a rising senior dual majoring in Dance and Business at Birmingham Southern College. The 2008 Miss Tennessee’s Outstanding Teen selected the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Greater Chattanooga as her platform since she is an active volunteer with the organization.
Miss Hanson, 21, is a senior double majoring in Telecommunications and Theatre at Lee University. The native of Oakwood, Ohio has been featured in public service announcements with Subway franchises in the Tri-Cities area promoting the W8 2 TXT campaign urging motorists not to text while driving. Her platform is Volunteerism – Start a Ripple.
Middle Tennessee State University graduate student Rebecca Lofty, who hails from Jasper, is Miss Middle Tennessee Blue Raider. The 24-year-old who now lives in Nashville will obtain her Masters in Strategic Leadership later this year. Miss Lofty graduated from UTK in 2009 with a degree in Journalism and Electronic Media and is a 2006 alumnus of Marion County High School. She is employed by Government Service Automation as a trainer and her platform is Youth Mentoring. Miss Lofty is competing for the second and final time since she will exceed the pageant age limit of 24 next year.
Genevieve Allen is the first Miss Dogwood Festival representing Winchester and Franklin County. Miss Allen will be a student at Martin Methodist College in the Fall after graduating from Motlow State. She plans to study Music with an emphasis with an emphasis on Pre-Law. Miss Allen is a singer/songwriter and her band Rumor Has It has made numerous appearances throughout Southern Tennessee. The 20-year-old, who was born and raised in Texas, has her own YouTube channel http://www.youtube.com/user/genevieveallenlive?feature=mhee. Her platform “Got Mine, Where’s Yours?” focuses on raising graduation levels through literacy.
Miss Music City Shelby Thompson of Franklin is the daughter of former Scenic City resident Eunice Belew Thompson who was Miss Chattanooga 1977 and the Miss Tennessee third runner-up. Miss Thompson, 22, recently graduated from UTK with a degree in Public Relations where she was honored with the prestigious Extraordinary Community Service Award for exceptional achievement for her work with Big Brothers and Big Sisters and Children’s Miracle Network. She is making her second appearance at Miss Tennessee two years after finishing as the second runner-up.
Governor Haslam will be appearing at the pageant during a preliminary night while Miss Kaeppeler, who became just the second Miss Wisconsin to win the Miss America title in January, will be in Jackson to support the contestants and also welcoming pageant guests. Miss Hatley, who will be resuming her studies at The University of Memphis later in the year, was among the top 10 Miss America finalists.
Mr. Haskell, the former Executive Vice-President and Worldwide Head of Television for the William Morris Agency, became the MAO Chairman in 2006 and is married to Miss Mississippi 1977 Mary Donnelly Haskell. He will be signing copies of his best-selling book “Promises I Made My Mother” and will donate the proceeds to the Miss Tennessee Scholarship Fund.