Holly Brand’s journey to singing stardom: A Miss Mississippi crown and now “The Voice”

Published 7:00 am Sunday, March 12, 2023

Holly Brand is used to working hard for what she gets.

In 2019, when she first competed for the title of Miss Mississippi, she didn’t even make the top 10. But that did not discourage the former Meridian native from coming back two years later and taking home the crown.

Brand now has her sights set on another goal – becoming the winner of the American singing reality competition “The Voice.”

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

In an interview with The Vicksburg Post, after being crowned Miss Mississippi, Brand said, after not making the top 10 in 2019, she went home and did a lot of “self-reflection.”

“I found myself saying things the winner would say because it sounded good. But I really wasn’t being my true authentic self. So, over the last two years, I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out who I am and what I stand for and what my brand is,” Brand said in the 2021 interview.

It appears that Brand’s introspection is still serving her well.

During the 2023 season premiere of “The Voice,” Brand made it through the blind audition. In fact, three of the four judges wanted to serve as her mentor — singer, songwriter, author, and television personality Kelly Clarkson; former member of the boy band One Direction Niall Horan; and Chance the Rapper.

Brand chose Clarkson, who herself came to fame after winning another singing reality competition, “American Idol,” in 2002.

Vicksburg resident Debbie Freeman knows Brand well, since her husband Winky was the executive director for the Miss Mississippi’s Outstanding Teen Pageant when Brand was crowned MMOT in 2017.

Freeman said she was not surprised Brand made it through “The Voice’s” blind auditions.

When it came to preparing for something she wanted, Freeman said, Brand was “like a machine.”

“I have never seen anybody like her (Brand),” Freeman said. “She never steps into anything she is totally and not 100 percent ready for.”

Freeman also recalled the first time she heard Brand sing, which was during the 2017 Miss Mississippi’s Outstanding Teen Pageant.

“She had to have been about 14. We did not know her (at that time), but she sang (Leonard Cohen’s) ‘Hallelujah’ and I remember thinking this girl is the real deal,” Freeman said.

Brand has continued to stay close to the Freeman family, but like everyone else, Freeman said she had not been aware Brand was going to be on “The Voice.” She did, however, recall Brand contemplating trying out one day.

“She had mentioned that in the future that she would love to be on ‘The Voice,’” Freeman said, but because of the secrecy that surrounds the initial auditions, Freeman said they had not known she was trying out.

The executive director of the Miss Mississippi Organization David Blackledge also reflected on Brand’s success.

“From seeing her compete as a candidate in the Miss Mississippi competition, it was very obvious that God had blessed her with an outstanding voice which she is continuing to use. The Miss Mississippi Board and staff are all proud of our Miss Mississippi 2021 Holly Brand for her accomplishments from being on ‘The Voice.’ And all of us from the Miss Mississippi family will be supporting and wishing her the best as she moves forward on the program,” Blackledge said.

Brand has continued to stay close to the Freeman family since being crowned MMOT. At times she has even stayed in their home when she was the reigning MMOT and Miss Mississippi. Seeing her compete on “The Voice,” Freeman said, had seemed “surreal.”

“It was surreal to see her there because I have seen her here. I have seen her here just singing,” Freeman said.

Freeman said on one of the occasions when Brand’s parents were visiting at the same time she was staying with them, Brand started singing “Amazing Grace” a cappella for Freeman’s father.

“This was so indicative of her personality,” Freeman said. “She is an amazing singer, but she is the most incredible Christian, and that is what matters to me the most.”