With her title of Miss Greenwood USA, Kerrie Blakeney wants to use her position to do some good.

“You don’t really have to have a prestigious title like Miss Mississippi America or USA to make a difference. You just have to start where you are,” she said.

The 24-year-old, who is a new Greenwood resident, however, came close last weekend to winning a prestigious state pageant title. She was first-runner up at the Miss Mississippi USA pageant. Blakeney was also named Miss Congeniality.

Blakeney, who is representing her new town as Miss Greenwood USA, has plans to compete for the title again next year.

Until then, as Miss Greenwood, Blakeney wants to get involved in her new community and make an impact.

“If you had asked me at 10 years old what I would be, this is not it. I thought I’d get through college,” said Blakeney. “But I never thought I’d be where I am now. I feel like 10-year-old Kerrie would be so proud of who I am now.”

The youngest of six children, Blakeney is a Bay Springs native. She is a graduate of Sylva-Bay Academy in Bay Springs.

“I graduated with a class of 18 people,” she said.

A longtime pageant participant, Blakeney became more serious about competing during college.

“I did them when I was little, kind of like the ‘Toddlers & Tiaras’ that you see on TLC,” she said. “I was really big into sports, so I played softball, basketball, I was a cheerleader, I ran track, and then in the offseason I would play for summer and winter leagues, too. So pageants were not my priority.”

Blakeney did compete each year in her school’s annual beauty review.

“I think I won maybe eight out of nine years,” she said.

After high school, she attended Northwest Community College’s Oxford branch. In 2014, she competed in the college’s pageant.

“That’s when I really started my pageant career,” Blakeney said.

She won the title of Miss Northwest Community College.

Later, Blakeney moved to Hattiesburg to attend William Carey University. There, she met her boyfriend, Cole Feigler, a 2013 Pillow Academy graduate who was attending the University of Southern Mississippi.

“He was really into fitness; well, I was not,” she said. “I was like, ‘I’m going to have to keep up with you at some point.’ So he just started getting me to the gym.”

Blakeney told her boyfriend about how it was a dream of hers to compete in the Miss Mississippi USA pageant. He encouraged her to go for it. So Blakeney made a fitness goal, and Feigler helped her with her workouts.

“It takes a long time to see results in the gym, and it can kind of be disheartening at times whenever you don’t feel you’re progressing at the rate that you need to be,” she said.

Feigler was also her motivator.

“He’s the one who really made me realize my self-worth and that I was definitely able to hold a position like Miss Mississippi USA, and he just really was there to encourage me every step of the way,” Blakeney said.

She competed last year at the Miss Mississippi USA pageant as Miss Lamar County USA. She placed in the Top 13 but did not advance to the Top 5.

Since Blakeney had always been successful in pageants, not advancing “was a good old piece of humble pie,” she said.

She enjoyed the experience and being on a stage with high-caliber competitors.

“You kind of go in there hearing rumors of girls being catty, but it was not like that at all,” said Blakeney. “They were some of the most genuine girls I’ve ever met. They had goals that they’ve been working toward their entire lives, and being around people, who have not necessarily the same goals as you but just goals period, makes you want to reach yours.”

In May, Blakeney graduated from William Carey, where she received a Bachelor of Science degree in business administration with a concentration in marketing management.

After college, she was offered a job in medical device sales with LivaNova, a global medical technology company, and her boyfriend began working at Heartland Catfish.

Since Blakeney’s work includes a lot of traveling, she had the option to move anywhere and chose to relocate to Greenwood to be near Feigler’s place of employment.

Blakeney said a couple of months after the 2018 pageant, “I started wanting to do it again, because I’m a super competitive person by nature, and I wanted to try it one more time.”

Nineteen titleholders from across the state competed in the Miss Mississippi USA pageant from Oct. 24 to 26 at the Horseshoe Casino in Tunica.

“You don’t necessarily think you can do something like get called to the Top 5 until it happens, and then you feel like, ‘Yeah, I can do this,’” said Blakeney.

She was first runner-up to Asya Branch, a former Miss Mississippi America winner, who was crowned Miss Mississippi USA. Branch became the first African American winner of the state competition.

“I can’t say enough good things about her,” said Blakeney, who added that she believes Branch will be a top contender at the Miss USA pageant.

Blakeney is also proud of her title of Miss Congeniality, which was voted on by the other contestants.

“I just wanted to make sure everyone felt included, and sometimes it can get tense going from 19 to 11 and then to five,” she said.

Blakeney tried to make the atmosphere lighter with her sense of humor. She also wanted to make sure the contestants new to the pageant felt comfortable.

“If it’s a girl’s first year, she may feel like she can’t keep up with everybody else. I was just like that last year,” she said. “I remember feeling alone, and I didn’t want anybody else to feel like that.”

Blakeney is not just a pageant queen. Her employer, LivaNova, is a worldwide leader in cardiovascular and neuromodulation solutions. She sells a neuromodulation device that has to be surgically implanted.

“It’s for patients with drug-resistant epilepsy, and it makes their seizures go away or lessens the frequency or the severity of them,” she said. “I actually work in the operating room with neurosurgeons, thoracic surgeons, ear, nose and throat surgeons, and general surgeons.”

Because of Blakeney’s job, promoting epilepsy awareness has become an important cause to her.

“In Mississippi specifically, epilepsy is a prominent disorder,” said Blakeney.

She’s participating in the Saturday Walk to End Epilepsy in Flowood. Blakeney wants to work with the Mississippi Epilepsy Foundation and have more awareness events across the state, including Greenwood.

Other causes she’s passionate about are supporting law enforcement officers and veterans appreciation.

In Greenwood, Blakeney said she wants to help anywhere she’s needed.

“I just want to give back to people in any way I can,” she said.

To make a guest speaker request for Blakeney, email her at kerrieblakeney@gmail.com.

Contact Ruthie Robison at 581-7235 or rrobison@gwcommonwealth.com.

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