The Miss Tennessee Scholarship Pageant gets underway in Jackson on Wednesday with six Chattanooga area entrants hoping to bring the state title back to the city for the third time in the last four years.
Miss Chattanooga Stephanie McKain, Miss Dogwood Festival Rachel Holder of Birchwood, Miss East Tennessee Lexi White from Harrison, Miss Rocky Top MerylAnne Dexter of Signal Mountain, Miss Scenic City Hannah Robison and Miss Tennessee Valley Sydney Shadrix are among the 36 women competing for an $18,000 scholarship, representing the state at September’s Miss America Pageant, becoming Tennessee’s Goodwill Ambassador for Children’s Miracle Network and serving as the Governor Bill Haslam’s Official Spokesperson for Character Education.
The three nights of preliminaries in talent, swimsuit, evening wear and on-stage question will determine the 16 finalists including the winner of the People’s Choice Award (http://wp.misstennessee.org/peopleschoice/) who will advance to Saturday’s finals. The pageant will be web streamed starting at 9 p.m. on Wednesday through Friday at www.eplustv6.com during the preliminaries and at 8:45 p.m. on Saturday. The pivotal nine minute interviews with the judges’ panel which often determines the winner will conclude prior to the televised preliminaries.
The winner will succeed Hayley Lewis who became the first Miss Tennessee Valley from the Scenic City Pageants franchise to capture the state crown and the sixth in the program’s 14 years history joining Jamie Watkins Davenport (2003), Blaire Pancake (2006), Ellen Carrington Shelton (2008), Stefanie Wittler Beavers (2009) and Chandler Lawson (2012). Ms. Lewis was a Miss America top 10 finalist and spoke to thousands of Tennessee students during her statewide tour of elementary and middle schools. She was also a spokesperson for the Chattanooga chapter of the Hydrocephalus Association whose Goodwill Ambassador five-year-old Ema McLaughen of Ooltewah caused a media sensation at last year’s pageant when her wish to attend the event was granted. Ema was honored at the recent Tennessee’s Outstanding Teen pageant where she was crowned as an honorary Iris Princess by Ms. Lewis.
The Chattanooga area contestants:
• Miss Chattanooga Stephanie McKain is a 23-year-old graduate student at Middle Tennessee State University where she is pursuing her Masters in Business Administration. She is the founder of the non-profit organization Closets of Love which has given away clothing to thousands of low-income families. Ms. McKain has had two local Closet of Love events since becoming Miss Chattanooga last July.
• Miss Dogwood Festival Rachel Holder of Birchwood has been a well-known country vocalist in the Chattanooga area performing at the Riverbend Festival and other local venues. The 22-year-old Curb Records recording artist participated in last weekend’s CMA Fest in Nashville and recently concluded her Wal-Mart tour where she promoted her EP “Shining Now”. She is a sophomore at Cleveland State Community College and she is a spokesperson for Be Safe! No Texting and Driving.
• Miss East Tennessee Lexi White of Harrison is a 24-year-old senior at UTC where she is majoring in Psychology. Her late grandmother, Amanda Whitman Henry, was Miss Tennessee 1957. The Baylor School graduate is an advocate for Blood: Water Mission, a non-profit organization that is dedicated to providing cleaner water in Africa and also preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS.
• Miss Rocky Top MerylAnne Dexter is a recent graduate of Brigham Young University where she received her degree in Genetics and Biotechnology. The Signal Mountain resident who is an alumna of Girls’ Preparatory School wants to become a genetics counselor. She is an active volunteer for the Make-A-Wish Foundation both locally and in Utah.
• Miss Scenic City Hannah Robison of Paris is a 21-year-old senior at the University of Tennessee at Martin where she is majoring in Chemistry. Her personal platform is the Campaign Against Pain: Arthritis Awareness and she started STEM Days at Children’s Miracle Network hospitals statewide where she performs scientific experiments for the patients and their families.
• Miss Tennessee Valley Sydney Shadrix is a 2014 Music Education graduate of Belmont University and a native of Carrollton, Ga. Miss Shadrix is a choir teacher at John A. Early Middle School in Nashville. Her community service platform is Feeding America and she has participated in several fundraisers for the organization.