Miss Mississippi, Miss Mississippi’s Teen ready to chase crowns at Miss America

Published 9:27 pm Sunday, January 7, 2024

The time has finally arrived. After months of anticipation, Miss Mississippi Vivian O’Neal and Miss Mississippi’s Teen Nataleigh Nix boarded a plane Saturday heading to Orlando, Fla. where they will compete for the title of 2024 Miss America and 2024 Miss America’s Teen, respectively.

The competitions will take place at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts with Miss America Teen being crowned Sat., Jan 13. The new Miss America will be crowned, Sun., Jan. 14.

Prior to the crownings, delegates vying for both the Miss America Teen title and Miss America title will have a personal interview with judges, followed by preliminary competitions showcasing talent, fitness, and eveningwear for their respective competitions.

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Nix, who was crowned Miss Mississippi’s Teen in April, said she has been preparing for all phases of the competition.

“For interview and onstage questions, I have had a mental management coach and countless mock interviews,” she said. “For fitness and evening wear, I’ve practiced walking patterns and adopted a #MissAmericaFit mentality and for talent I have had voice lessons to practice and improve my song.”

Like all delegates competing for the national title, Nix did not reveal what she will be singing, but during the Miss Mississippi Teen Competition, she sang “Never Enough” from the movie-musical “The Greatest Showman” from which she was recognized as a preliminary talent winner.

In addition to preparing for the Miss America Teen Competition, Nix said, she has traveled the state implementing her Community Service Initiative AOK – Acts Of Kindness, completed pulling together her wardrobe, created social media content and attended appearance and sponsor visits.

O’Neal was crowned Miss Mississippi in June and looks at being an ambassador for the Magnolia State as part of preparation for the national title.

“Truthfully, my life is preparation for Miss America,” O’Neal said. “Traveling, public speaking, representing and recruiting for the state organization, and working with my nonprofit organization are all things I do in my day-to-day life, but they also cultivate skills that I use as a competitor and hopefully, Miss America 2024,” she said.

O’Neal said she has had the privilege of visiting places like Stennis Space Center, Keesler Air Force Base, Camp Shelby and the Nissan plant – all of which have deepened her knowledge of the state.

“I learned so much about the nationwide and even worldwide impact that our state and its people have,” she said. “And I have been very intentional about using my social media as a way to showcase the diversity within the state of Mississippi.

During her reign, O’Neal said she has also focused on letting people see what really goes on behind the crown.

“One of the best compliments I have received this year is that I’m the same in person as I am on television and social media. My goal through social media is to showcase what real life looks like as a state titleholder,” she said. “I think that there is such a misconception that Miss Mississippi is supposed to be this image of ‘perfection’ and I knew going into the state competition that if I won, authenticity would be at the forefront.”

Preliminary competitions for Miss America will take place Wed., Jan. 10, and Thurs., Jan. 11, and like Nix, O’Neal was not at liberty to discuss the particulars about the talent or evening wear phase of the competition. However, she did say, “For my evening gown, it’s a color I’ve worn before but not in a very long time. And for talent, I will be dancing and I’m confident it will make the audience want to get up and dance with me,” she said.

Both O’Neal and Nix said they look forward to competing on the national level.

“I am most looking forward to the memories and friendships I will make and that I will remember for the rest of my life,” Nix said.

“I watched Miss America every single year growing up,” O’Neal said. “So, for me, the thing I’m looking forward to the most is finally getting to be part of that history in such a big way. Miss America and Miss Mississippi specifically have always been iconic figures both publicly and in my personal life, so I feel very honored to represent an organization with such a rich legacy.”

Schedule for the Miss America Teen Competition

  • Sunday, Jan. 7 – Private interview
  • Tuesday, 7 p.m. Jan. 9 – Miss America’s Teen preliminary competition
  • Thursday, 4 p.m. Jan. 11 – Miss America’s Got Talent teen competition (preliminary talent phase of the competition)
  • Saturday, 7 p.m. Jan. 13 – Miss America’s Teen Finals

Schedule for the Miss America Competition

  • Sunday, Jan. 7 – Private interview
  • Wednesday, 7 p.m. Jan. 10 – Miss America Preliminary competition