Picayune native crowned Miss University of Southern Mississippi

Published 7:00 am Saturday, October 22, 2016

Crowning Acheivement: Kaelyn Wolfe was crowned Miss University of Southern Mississippi on Oct. 15 by the former queen, Macey Mitchell.  Submitted Photo

Crowning Acheivement: Kaelyn Wolfe was crowned Miss University of Southern Mississippi on Oct. 15 by the former queen, Macey Mitchell.
Submitted Photo

Kaelyn Wolfe has some lofty goals. In the short term, she wants to graduate from college. Then she wants to become Miss Mississippi. Then there’s the slightly longer-term goal, to become the fifth Mississippian to wear the Miss America crown.

The honey-blonde Wolfe, 23, took her first step toward those goals on by winning the Miss Southern Mississippi University title Oct. 15, beating out five other contestants in the qualifying pageant for Miss Mississippi.

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The pageant was held in the Mannoni Performing Arts Center on the Hattiesburg campus, where Wolfe studies communications with a minor in Spanish. She will graduate in December.

“The next big event for me will be the Miss Mississippi Pageant” in Vicksburg, the Pearl River Central High School alumna said this week. The state pageant will be held June 21-24, 2017.

“From now until then, aside from preparation, I’ll be doing several appearances, university events, mock interviews, and of course supporting my platform, which is mental health awareness,” Wolfe said.

It’s a cause that’s deeply touched her life, she said.

“First and foremost, there are 43 million Americans who live with mental illness, and only about 40 percent wind up seeking help,” she said.

She said she is devoted to promoting better access to mental health treatment and lessening the social stigma that prevents some people from asking for help.

Wolfe is the daughter of Debbie Wright Wolfe, longtime show choir director at Pearl River Central, and the late Jeffrey Lynn Wolfe.

Her mother now lives in Ellisville, where she teaches at South Jones High School.

She graduated from PRC in 2012, and won the Pearl River County Distinguished Young Woman award that year in the contest, formerly the Junior Miss Pageant, and finished in the top 10 in the statewide event.

She says that experience “sparked my interest in the Miss Mississippi and Miss America Organization.”

For the talent portion of the competition last weekend at Southern Mississippi, Wolfe performed a tap dance to “Anything Goes” from the Cole Porter musical of the same name.

“I’m definitely going to tap again, but I think I’ll be changing up the song, so I’ll have to learn a new dance!” she said, chuckling. She’s studied tap for 17 years.

Along with the spangled crown and sash, she also won a $1,500 scholarship. She plans to begin graduate school after she earns her bachelor’s degree, where she plans to study student affairs administration.

“Actually I was born in Alabama, but we moved here when I was 5, so I consider Pearl River County my home,” she said.

She tries to visit “every now and then, but school keeps me busy in Hattiesburg.”

Previous Miss Mississippis who have gone on to win the national crown include Mary Ann Mobley in 1959, Linda Lee Mead in 1960, Cheryl Prewitt in 1980 and Susan Akin in 1986. Hattiesburg has produced more winners of that pageant than any other city, with a total of nine winners.

The Miss Mississippi pageant will be held at the Vicksburg Convention Center. The coronation is on June 24, 2017. Tickets are $30 for the preliminary performances June 21 and 22, $40 for June 23 and $50 for the finale. Tickets for all nights are $125.

For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.missmississippipageant.com or call (601) 638-6746.