The Inaugural Miss Tennessee Volunteer Pageant
The very first Miss Tennessee Volunteer Scholarship pageant was held the week of June 19th, 2019 in Jackson, Tennessee. This pageant had it all: glitz, glamour, and prestige! The winner of the Miss Tennessee Volunteer Scholarship Pageant gets $25,000 worth of scholarships and becomes the Governor's Spokesperson for Character Education, an extremely high honor. The Governor's Spokesperson for Character Education travels to schools all across Tennessee speaking about self-awareness, responsibility, respect, fairness, and other traits that promote better academic performance and citizenship. The young women who competed, completely embody those principles.
Why is it the first? It is no longer a part of the Miss America program. With the changes in that pageant’s format, and what it now stands for, the directors of the Tennessee Pageant chose to begin again, and go back to the foundation of the Miss America program to start this pageant. It is extremely important to note that this pageant winner, Miss Tennessee Volunteer, will be the Governor’s Spokesperson and not the Miss Tennessee pageant winner. The winner of the Miss Tennessee Volunteer will not be in competition for Miss America, but it is interesting that more girls chose to compete in this pageant simply because it follows the traditional principles, and it allows them to be a role model, as the spokesperson for character education throughout the state. At this point, Tennessee is the first state to put together its own pageant, although other state coordinators who did not continue with the Miss America Organization are considering the same process. Tom Hensley, Jimmy Exum, and Jane Alderson are the coordinators of the ‘new’ pageant.
The Miss Tennessee Volunteer scholarship pageant was founded on the principles and traditions of the original pageant system. This means that Miss Tennessee Volunteer has Talent, Evening Wear, and the Swimsuit competitions as well as the On-Stage question and private interview. The tradition of the pageant was something each and every single one of the girls we spoke to held dear to their hearts. Before the pageant was held in Jackson, we were able to speak with three of the contestants who would head there for the pageant which was starting on June 19th.
Miss Jackson, Kailey Jordan, explained why she chose the Miss Tennessee Volunteer Scholarship Pageant. “Well for me it wasn't a hard decision to make. I basically had the goal from the day I started pageantry to just be Miss Tennessee to represent my state. So, therefore, my goal long term was never to be Miss America, so that was one of the factors that I factored into my decision. I just wanted the opportunity to represent my state and I know that by being Miss Tennessee Volunteer I can do that.”
Miss Tipton County, Autumn Payne, told us that it was important for her “to continue in the legacy that this organization has built over the years. It makes me proud to be able to carry on all of the traditions. I really enjoyed my year. I love all the service that we did.”
Miss Mid-South, Morgan Martin spoke about competing the previous year and how that helped her decide. “I competed last year with Jane Alderson and Allison Alderson DeMarcus as coordinators, and just seeing the dedication they have to each girl, not just for the girl that comes out as Miss Tennessee Volunteer, made me really want to continue to support them. They work so hard to put on a state pageant every year to get the scholarship money and the sponsors. I really want to support them, support the local pageant which is in Jackson, and continue that journey of being the governor's spokesperson for character education. Getting to travel our state and really just being there for Jane and Allison because they put in so much work this year. They truly do support each and every girl no matter what the outcome is on Saturday night.”
Each night of the pageant there were two preliminary awards, Lifestyle and Fitness: Swimsuit Competition and the Talent Competition. Miss Chattanooga, Samantha Havenstrite and Miss Queen City, Noelle Thompson, were announced as preliminary winners on June 19th. Miss McNairy County, Kara Smith, and Miss Rhythm and Blues, DeLaney Timberman won on June 20th. On the last night of preliminaries, June 21st, Miss Middle Tennessee Valley, Elise Stein, and Miss Lane College, Shannel DeFoe won.
On Saturday, June 22nd, the top 15 winners were announced! Out of those 15 contestants, seven titles were from West Tennessee: Miss UT Martin - Amanda Mayo, Miss Dixie PAC - Katie Hodges, Miss Fall Fest - Anna Bright, Miss Rhythm and Blues - DeLaney Timberman, Miss Jackson - Kailey Jordan, and Miss Scenic City - Kerri Arnold.
The winners for the 2019 Miss Tennessee Volunteer Pageant were: 1st runner-up: Kailey Jordan, Miss Jackson, 2nd runner-up: Noelle Thompson, Miss Queen City, 3rd runner-up: Addison Hadley, Miss Davidson County, and 4th runner-up: Elise Stein, Miss Middle Tennessee Volunteer. Miss Scenic City, Kerri Arnold, was crowned the new Miss Tennessee Volunteer!
Both the 1st runner-up: Kailey Jordan (Miss Jackson) and winner Kerri Arnold (Miss Scenic City) were able to sit down and talk about how much everything meant to them. Kailey is on cloud nine because this was her last year competing in pageants, “It was a journey,” knowing this was her last pageant, “and I would not trade it for the world. Standing there with Kerri is something I'll always remember.” Kailey mentioned what is was like getting ready for the first Miss Tennessee Volunteer Pageant, “we had to come up with our own acronym for the five-point crown. It's the word SERVE, because that's what it's all about serving your state, your country, whatever it may be. We're trying to bring that back.” SERVE stands for Scholarships, Education, Responsibility, Volunteerism, and Empowerment. “I feel like the Miss Tennessee Volunteer organization has really embraced what SERVE is all about.”
Kailey also spoke about what it was like to represent her family and the City of Jackson on stage and how she feels about being 1st runner-up. “This pageant really made me step back and be grateful for the things you have, especially your family. That was really a motivator for me throughout the week. They were out there watching and I'm representing my family, not just the city of Jackson, I'm representing my family. Like this is who we are. Because, I mean, I'm a mirror of my parents. So that's all I wanted to do was make them proud, and make the city of Jackson proud. Somebody shared my post about when people ask, ‘How does it feel to fall short?’ I just tell people, it feels great because I didn't fall short. Reality is, I exceeded my goal, my personal goals. I just wanted to be in the top five, that was my win! I was literally one in 36 women from across the state of Tennessee. I was one of the last ones standing, that's a huge deal. You know, not every woman gets a chance to do this. So that in itself is winning for me.” Kailey is extremely happy to have gotten to compete in Miss Tennessee Volunteer and while she has one more year of eligibility, she is looking forward to watching the pageant next year.
Kerri is ”beyond excited” to have won the title Miss Tennessee Volunteer, “every little thing that I get to do... It's like, I think I can't get any more excited and something pushes it a little farther. This past week I did my first visit to a Children's Miracle Network Hospital, and I got to meet with some kids and talk to them. That was a different experience for me. I haven't done that before and it made me so excited to know that I’ll get to keep doing it. I love that I might have an impact on a child’s life!” Kerri has been doing pageants since her junior year of high school, but this was her first year competing at a state pageant. It’s rare that a first-time state contestant actually wins. “Picking Miss Tennessee Volunteer, for me, was what the group of directors and the board stood for and their affection for the participants. I know Ms. Jane, Ms. Allison, and Ms. Amy made us all feel like a family. You know, Ms. Jane told us, I guess it was at that Miss Congeniality party,” a pizza party on Friday night, “that we were all Ms. Jane’s girls now. Win or Lose. You know, all of us were part of this, with her, now. That really helps you know? It's such a rush. So that's something that's important to know that you're leaving with these connections, with these people as friends.”
Kerri’s enthusiasm exceeds beyond the crown to the organization, “It's just the best organization, we have a board that has stepped up and worked so hard to set it up because they believe so much in what we are doing. We gave out $125,000 in scholarships, which is more than we've ever given out. Not a single person left without some type of scholarship. It's so important that it's out there that this is an organization that is working to help women further their education, to help achieve their goals, and, work for bettering women every day. There is this next generation that's coming to continue this program, keeping it in Jackson, and I think that says a lot about the community that's in Jackson. They were willing to open their arms to us again and continue to every year.” [This was the 68th year for the pageant in Jackson, albeit with a new name.] Kerri is already thinking about how she can use her year as Miss Tennessee Volunteer to help get everything ready for next years pageant.
“I can help the organization by getting donors. I think that to get those donors, it's important we discuss how this organization is giving back to its participants. Not just, ‘yeah, you've given money, and I'm going to go to college,’ but ‘You've helped me grow as a person.’ I mean, that money is making a world of difference, it's taking a burden off of my family of course, and so many other’s families, it's wonderful. But with that money, they have also given me and all of the other winners something else: confidence. It’s a confidence that I've grown in myself, where I'm able to go, and what I’m able to do. It’s also going to follow me in my education as I go out and finish my higher education, and later when I get a job. It's not just, ‘you're giving money’, you are helping people grow. That was something that I really wanted to get out to the judges and to the people who have donated. I think it's important that we continue to push out how wonderful this organization is.”
Kerri will be speaking to an estimated 70,000 school children over the coming year as the Governor’s official spokesperson for character education, and talking about her platform, the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
We would like to congratulate each and every competitor in the Miss Tennessee Volunteer Pageant. All of your hard work and talent really made the Miss Tennessee Volunteer Scholarship Pageant an amazing event! For more information about competing in the pageant, or how you can help, go to: