BATON ROUGE, LA (BRPROUD) – In five days a new Miss USA will be crowned and one Baton Rouge woman is hoping to capture the crown.
Miss Louisiana Mariah Clayton is taking part in the biggest competition of her life, and she is eager to represent the state of Louisiana on a national stage.
Back in October 2019, Mariah Clayton, a Baton Rouge native, was crowned Miss Louisiana USA 2020.
“After I won, I hit the ground running. I was doing one to two appearances a day. I was visiting schools, speaking engagements. Anything you can think of, I was doing it.”
But, those plans were halted in early March when COVID hit.
“Everything for the future got cancelled. I was so upset because I knew that I really wanted to use my crown and my sash to be out in the community, and I really had to readjust and think how can I still be present and how can I still reach people,” Clayton said.
She was determined to make an impact so she founded the “Girls in Real Life” organization.
“At this age girls look to social media, tik tok is a big thing right now. They look to magazines, television and you really lose sight of what it means to be a girl in real life. So, I wanted this to be a reminder that hey if even you don’t have x, y and z you’re still beautiful, you still matter, you’re still valuable,” Clayton said.
She was no longer allowed to have big gathers, so when life gives you a pandemic, you turn to Zoom.
“I really enjoyed it because for one, it wasn’t just limited to the state. I had over 90 women register and attend this event from literally all over the country. New Jersey, California, Louisiana, all over the country, and if it wasn’t for the pandemic, I don’t think I would have had that kind of reach.”
A reach that was about to get even more important.
“As someone who has this platform, I can’t stay silent. At first, I was really scared about that because as a title holder I feel like sometimes we feel pressured to watch what we say or watch how we react. But even when the George Floyd incident happened, I made an Instagram video and I was literally crying and just expressing how sad it made me, how mad I had felt and I got so much positive response saying I hear you; I understand you. It sparked a lot of important conversations that we need to have in our country.”
Now, she’s getting ready to take her platform to a national stage.
“This is so much bigger than me and I know that. This moment is not just about me. It’s about women who felt like they never fit in or women who felt like they needed to change things about themselves to be successful. As long as I go out there and represent that, I will be happy no matter what the outcome,” said Clayton.
The Miss USA pageant is Monday, November 9 at the Exhibition Centre and the Soundstage at Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee.
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