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Laura Lee Lewis crowns sorority ‘sister’ Miss Mississippi

Since she was a toddler, the newly crowned Miss Mississippi Anne Elizabeth Buys had dreamed of one day winning the title.

At the age of 3, the Brookhaven native attended her first Miss Mississippi Pageant, and by four, she said she was hooked.

Buys’ parents lived in Brookhaven briefly, but moved to Vicksburg soon after she was born. She grew up there, where the state pageant is an annual rite of passage.

“When I was 4 years old I remember my dad bringing home a Miss Mississippi program book. We still have pictures of me sitting on the bar going through each page of the book. I was just hooked from that minute forward and have not missed a pageant since,” Buys said.

At 7, Buys made her debut on the Miss Mississippi Pageant stage, serving as a junior dancer in the production. She then went on to participate in the Miss Mississippi Magnolia prince and princess program for two years.

While a teen, Buys competed in the Miss Mississippi’s Outstanding Teen Pageant for four years and was crowned the winner in 2013.

After her year of reign as MMOT, the Vicksburg woman once again signed on to participate in the Miss Mississippi Pageant production and for two years was one of the principle dancers in the show.

Last year, Buys finally made it to the Miss Mississippi Pageant stage as a contestant and walked away as the first runner-up to Miss Mississippi, Brookhaven native Laura Lee Lewis.

Buys is Lewis’ grand little sister in Chi Omega at Mississippi State University. Christina Bostick, Miss Mississippi Outstanding Teen 2010, is between them.

For more than 10 years, Buys’ life has in some form or fashion revolved around the Miss Mississippi Pageant organization.

Some might think the Miss Mississippi Pageant is part of Buys’ DNA, and this may not be too far from the truth.

Buys father, Mark Buys, was a volunteer with the pageant for many years and her mother, Judy Booth Buys, was a former contestant.

“I love hearing my parent’s stories,” Buys said, of their time with the Miss Mississippi Pageant.

“They have so many funny and memorable stories.”

However, Buys said there are some elements of the competition that have changed since her parents were involved with the program.

“One thing that is different is interview and swimsuit. During my mom’s time, for the interview contestants wore suits and sat in chairs during the interview,” Buys said.

Contestants no longer are required to wear suits, she said, and in lieu of sitting, they all stand at a podium during the interview process.

Changes in the swimsuit phase of the competition included the one-piece “super-suit” contestants wore and the “swimsuit walk.”

Buys said she had the opportunity to try on a “super suit” while she and her mom were preparing for this year’s pageant.

“Mom and I were going through closets a few weeks ago when I was getting things ready for the pageant and I tried on her evening gown and swimsuit. It was so much fun. Mom even has all of her shoes she had worn in the pageant,” Buys said.

In addition to the changes made in swimwear attire and the interview process, the Miss Mississippi Pageant organization now also places a greater emphasis on philanthropy.

Each contestant is required to support a platform, which they will promote during their reign as a local titleholder, and if they win, as the state titleholder.

Buys’ platform is Water for Life.

“My platform deals with saving lives both locally and globally. Eleven percent of the world’s population does not have access to clean drinking water,” Buys said, resulting in more than 4,000 children dying daily.

And because this is something the reigning Miss Mississippi is passionate about, she said she is thrilled that as the state titleholder, she will be able to advance her cause.

While continuing to encourage others to get involved with Water for Life, Buys said, she is also looking forward to serving her state by continuing to work with the Children’s Miracle Network hospitals, which partner with the Miss America Organization.

“Just to serve in any way I can is the legacy I want to leave on this organization,” she said.

Sacrifice and dedication have made winning the crown possible for Buys, but this has not been a journey she said she has traveled alone.

In addition to her parents, Buys said, she has received support from her three brothers.

“They have never missed a single night of any pageant I have ever been in, and they are always sitting there shoulder to shoulder. It is such an amazing support system,” she said.

She also credits her faith for sustaining her not only during the week of competition, but also in the endeavor to reach her goals.

“During the competition, I felt God’s perfect peace and trusted His plan for my life,” Buys said.

“God has written a story for my life as He has for everyone, and I told myself if this is something He wants from me, I will pursue this with all my heart. I am so thankful He placed this opportunity in my life.”

The newly crowned Miss Mississippi said she felt like she performed well in all phases of the competition.

Following Wednesday night’s preliminary competition Buys was named the winner of the swimwear competition and on Thursday, she tied in the preliminary phase of the competition, where she performed en pointe to “Viva” by Bond.

Along with the Miss Mississippi title and crown, Buys receives a $10,000 scholarship.

Saturday night’s top 10 contestants competed in the final round of competition on a point system based on interviews with the judges, talent, swimwear, evening wear and on-stage question.

Miss Dixie Holly Harrington of Tupelo was named first runner up and was awarded a $7,500 scholarship; Miss Meridian Tanner Fant of Meridian was second runner up and was awarded two $2,500 scholarships totaling $5,000; Miss Jones County Brooke Bullock of Petal was third runner up and was awarded a $2,500 scholarship and Miss All-America City Asya Branch of Booneville was fourth runner up and was awarded a $2,500 scholarship.

Rounding out the top ten were Miss Desoto County Charley Ann Nix, Miss Hattiesburg Mia Hall, Miss Neshoba County Fair Miriam Grace Seale, Miss Mississippi State University Molly May and Miss New South Callie Danielle Brown.

By Terri Cowart Frazier, The Vicksburg Post