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This week, 47 contestants are gathered at the Robinson Center in Little Rock for the 2023 Miss Arkansas Pageant. Each of these women represents Arkansas hometowns, landmarks and regions. Together, they are each competing to spend a year as Miss Arkansas.
We recently visited with Ebony Mitchell, 2022 Miss Arkansas, as she prepares for her final week in this role. She reflected on her first moments after being crowned, highlights from her year as Miss Arkansas and a few behind-the-scenes thoughts for Miss Arkansas Week, June 3-10.
Q: Who was the first person you made eye contact with, and what were you thinking?
Ebony Mitchell: My friends and family, but more specifically, my mother. My first thoughts were asking myself, “Is this real? Did I actually achieve this?” I have had a goal of becoming Miss Arkansas my entire life. To achieve it was astounding for me.
Q: When did it set in that you were Miss Arkansas?
Ebony: I think it set in at my homecoming celebration in Harrison. Seeing my hometown’s love for me and the new billboards they established because of my success was incredible.
Q: How long have you been competing in pageants?
Ebony: I’ve been a part of the Miss Arkansas Organization since I was 10. Since meeting Miss Arkansas as a 9-year-old in 2005, I knew I wanted to be Miss Arkansas.
My first Miss Arkansas Organization pageant was the inaugural Princess Miss University of Arkansas in 2007. The Princess program is a mentoring program for girls aged 5 through 12.
Q: How does Miss Arkansas serve as an ambassador of Arkansas?
Ebony Mitchell: I’ve visited hundreds of schools this year to inspire Arkansans’ next generation. I’ve attended galas and balls while also doing community service and represented Arkansas at the Miss America Competition.
I’ve also focused awareness on my social issue, online and social media safety, with the Governor, Attorney General’s Office and the Cyber Crimes Unit.
Q: What are some of the highlights from your year?
Ebony: I’ve driven over 50,000 miles in Arkansas and traveled throughout the United States. I went skydiving and rode in a hot air balloon. I’ve received so many honors this year from our legislators and my hometown. All of that aside, my favorite appearance was visiting my elementary school in Harrison, where I met Miss Arkansas for the first time.
Q: What social impact did you focus on this year?
Ebony: This year, my focus has been on “A Responsible Digital You.” This initiative is all about online safety and teaching kids how to stay safe online. I had a close friend who was a victim of an online predator, and learning about social media from a marketing perspective in college, I knew this was something I could use my influence to partner with organizations that can help make a difference.
Q: What events did you get to attend that are uniquely Arkansas?
Ebony: The Raccoon Supper in Gillett, the City of Mountain View Folk Festival, the Dogwood Festival in Siloam Springs, the World’s Shortest St. Patty’s Day Parade in Hot Springs and many more!
Q: What has serving in this role meant for you?
Ebony: Being Miss Arkansas has been the most incredible adventure of my life. I worked so hard to be in this role, so to achieve that has been life-changing. I’ve had the opportunity to inspire others in our state to dream beyond their circumstance and be whatever they desire. This role has also made me a debt-free, first-generation college graduate. I’ve received over $80,000.00 in scholarship money for my education. None of which would be possible without Miss Arkansas.
This role has also made me a debt-free, first-generation college graduate. I’ve received over $80,000.00 in scholarship money for my education. None of which would be possible without Miss Arkansas.
Q: What’s next for you?
Ebony: I will continue serving Arkansas and return to my professional career. I’m excited to see where the connections I’ve made and the relationships I’ve built this year will take me.
Q: So, what is Miss Arkansas Week like?
Ebony Mitchell: Miss Arkansas week is unlike any other week in the year. The contestants are sequestered together for an entire week while competing for the job of Miss Arkansas. During the week, we attend sponsor luncheons and rehearsals, host parties with our Princesses that we are mentoring and connect with the other contestants and our chaperones. One of my favorite outings is the Ladies in Leadership Luncheon. The Governor’s Mansion hosts us, and we hear from a guest speaker. It is a highlight of our week!
Most people would be surprised by the camaraderie of the women competing. We are all there to not only compete for scholarship money and potentially be Miss Arkansas, but we are also there to encourage and uplift one another. This incredibly unique week allows us to make friends and Miss Arkansas Sisters all over the state.
Q: What’s the best way someone can support a contestant they know is competing?
Ebony: Coming to the competition is the best way to support a contestant! Having people in the audience cheer for you is always so special. There is also a People’s Choice Award, where friends and family can donate money to a contestant, and the contestant with the most money donated will win a scholarship!
Images used with permission from the Miss Arkansas Scholarship Pageant Organization.
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