McKay Lee Bray is the current Miss Pine Belt. Dariyel Johnson is Miss Presley Heights. They’ll join 29 other women through four rounds of competition June 20 to 24. Each entrant won local qualifying competitions throughout the state over the last year.
This is Johnson’s second time at the state competition.
“I was definitely anxious last year,” Johnson said. “This year I’m excited. At the same time, the fear of the unknown is always something to worry about. You never know what’s going to happen, but I love it.”
Johnson is an Ole Miss ambassador, giving tours to prospective students. She also works at Nielson’s department store, is a member of Tri Delta sorority, and anchors the student news- a career she hopes to pursue after receiving a journalism degree.
Bray is in Ole Miss’ chancellor’s leadership class, Alpha Phi sorority, and the women in business organization. She’s majoring in business administration with the goal of becoming a hospital CEO. She was the 2020 Miss Hospitality Mississippi.
“Growing up I was not a pageant girl at all,” Bray said. “I was a tomboy through and through. I loved horses; I wore button-ups and boots every single day. Then I got involved in the distinguished young women pageant here in Greene County…I ended up loving it, I loved how much I grew through it.”
Johnson’s first pageant came at Leakesville Junior High. Winning gave her a sense of purpose and pride that sticks with her nearly a decade later.
“From that point in sixth grade, doing pageants for me has just been to build my confidence, which is something that I’m always gonna have to do. So why not do it in a way that I can help other people along with helping myself,” Johnson said.
Part of the competition includes showcasing talent. Bray will sing “Maybe It Was Memphis” by Pam Tillis. Johnson will sing “She Used to Be Mine” by Sara Bareilles for the musical Waitress. Each contestant will also complete a private interview with judges and answer one on-stage question with the evening gown portion.
The women will also discuss their social impact initiatives briefly on stage. Bray’s is to inspire people to pitch in by organizing litter and community clean-ups. Johnson’s is raising support for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
Both women say no matter the outcome, they are proud to be the first two Greene County natives to compete for the state title in the same year and they could not do it without the community’s support.
“I love this town. I started off as Greene County’s Miss Hospitality and that opened my eyes to a whole other level of love and support for this town. Like Dariyelle was talking, she said how supportive this town is and it’s like we’re all family and I want to make it better,” Bray said.
Miss Mississippi will be crowned Saturday, June 25. Every participant will receive academic scholarships and the title winner will represent the state in the Miss America competition.