McKay Lee Bray of Greene County was crowned 2020’s Mississippi Miss Hospitality Saturday evening at the historic Saenger Theater in downtown Hattiesburg.
With 36 contestants competing for the title, Bray was selected following virtual preliminary in June and Saturday’s on-stage top 10 competition.
Crowned the state’s 71st Mississippi Miss Hospitality, Bray will serve as goodwill ambassador for economic development and tourism for Mississippi. She will participate in numerous events with a national reach that highlight Mississippi’s tourism attractions and industries.
“I’m thrilled in my new role as 2020 Mississippi Miss Hospitality,” Bray said. “This program is more important now than ever as we show support for local businesses across the state during the challenges of COVID-19.”
Bray attends Jones College with plans to obtain a degree in biological sciences. She is an officer in the Jones College Phi Theta Kappa Honors program, a member of the Charles Pickering Honors Institute, and is part of Jones on Stage and JC Choir.
She plans to attend the University of Mississippi to pursue a career in Internal Medicine and has future plans to practice in a rural area in Mississippi.
This year’s top five contestants were:
• McKay Lee Bray, Greene County, 2020 Mississippi Miss Hospitality.
• Cailin Sims, Jackson County, first alternate.
• Andrea Berryhill, Panola County, second alternate.
• Ramsey Sanders, Pike County, third alternate.
• Aly Floyd, Lincoln County, fourth alternate.
The health and safety of Mississippi Miss Hospitality participants was the program’s top priority amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the State Office of Miss Hospitality altered plans for this year’s program while still affording the opportunity for contestants to represent their communities in state competition. With preliminary competition held last month, only the top 10 contestants proceeded to Saturday’s on-stage competition where Bray was selected this year’s state representative.
“Mississippi Miss Hospitality spends her reign sharing tourism assets, business advantages, culture and goodwill,” Kristen Brock, program director, said. “McKay Lee joins a network of talented women who come before her in this role to support the state.”
Serving alongside Bray at official events and appearances will be Ella Brown as Mississippi’s Little Miss Hospitality. Contestants locally selected a Little Miss to serve with them during their term. Ella is 6 years old and is the daughter of Brooke Brown.
Additionally, a number of other scholarships and awards were given out during the competition.
The top three Mississippi speech winners were awarded the Jay Slaughter Memorial Scholarship for their 90-second speeches creatively showcasing the state’s history, tourism resources and business assets. Winners were Jennifer Gray of Jackson, Gabrielle Taylor of Leakesville, and Cailin Sims of Jackson County.
The 36 contestants were provided a social media challenge beginning in April. The contest highlighted contestant achievements, Mississippi’s tourism offerings and the program’s sponsors. This year’s social media scholarship winner, which is awarded by the Mississippi Tourism Association, is Kassidy Young of Pontotoc County.
The program awards one young woman a top advertising sales scholarship for generating the most community support for the State Competition. The 2020 winner is Karlie Jordan of Lawrence County.
Nominated and voted on by her peers, the program recognizes one young woman as the Lake Little Spirit of Hospitality for her supportive, welcoming and kind behavior throughout competition. The award was named in memory of Lake Little of Starkville, who passed away during her reign in 2019. This year’s winner of the Lake Little Spirit of Hospitality award is Jennifer Gray of Jackson.
The Southern Miss Image Center provides a scholarship for the Most Photogenic contestant each year. McKay Lee Bray was selected as the 2020 recipient.
“Congratulations to these contestants. They worked hard preparing for competition and have tirelessly promoted the program’s platform of tourism and economic development,” said Marlo Dorsey, executive director and judge coordinator. “We look forward to seeing all contestants continue their journey representing communities across the state.”
Presented by the Hattiesburg Tourism Commission, the Mississippi Miss Hospitality program brings together the best and brightest young women to annually compete for the state title.
Contestants must be young women between the ages of 18 and 24, enrolled in college and represent their hometown.
The program supports more than $100,000 in college and university scholarships.
The Mississippi Miss Hospitality tradition began in 1949 under Gov. Fielding Wright and the Mississippi Legislature.