Golden Triangle women awarded during Miss Mississippi pageant

Starkville native Tanner Fant won first runner up in the Miss Mississippi pageant over the weekend. (Submitted photo)
Dana Wesley, of West Point, was awarded third runner up in the Miss Mississippi Pageant. Wesley sang "Summertime" by George Gershwin during the talent portion of the pageant. (Submitted photo)
Staff Writer

Two Golden Triangle women, Tanner Fant of Starkville and Dana Wesley of West Point, were awarded during the Miss Mississippi pageant on Saturday.

Miss Tupelo Asya Branch of Booneville was crowned Miss Mississippi. Fant, Miss New South, was first runner-up, Miss Northland Holly Harrington of Tupelo was second runner-up and Wesley, Miss Pontotoc Ridge was third runner-up.

Fant is studying dance and psychology at the University of Alabama.

"I was born and raised in Starkville, but I attend the University of Alabama," Fant said. "Starkville is home to me, and now that I'm away from Starkville I appreciate that a lot more."

Fant said she started her platform "Let's All Dance" at age 14 because she wanted to give children with unique abilities the opportunity to dance.

"Starkville is so supportive of that through the T.K. Martin Center, Kids' Therapy Spot, The Dance Studio and Mississippi State, we were able to have this dance program start and be successful," Fant said. "Now seven years later I have a program for assisted living homes, and I have a program for underserved and underestimated individuals. I volunteer at The Palmer Home and Brickfire through my platform, and we also raise money for Children's Miracle Network."

Through her platform, Fant said she's not only an advocate for the arts, education and beyond, but she's also a force for the fight in equality and empowerment through all people no matter who they are or where they come from.

Wesley, a Spanish major at the University of Mississippi, said her platform "Cultural Awareness Through Language and Awareness" also allows her to enhance the lives of others by advocating for nationwide integration of language and culture into curriculum for students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

"I work with community leaders, and I've worked with Mayor Robbie Robinson and Superintendent Burnell McDonald, as well as with other teachers and staff and students about different ways we can incorporate language and culture into classes for students so when they become adults it will be ingrained in them to be more loving and accepting to people who are from different cultures and have different backgrounds," Wesley said.

Wesley said the part of the Miss Mississippi experience that stands out to her the most is the parade before the pageant.

"I really enjoyed the parade because I got to see a lot of my supporters and people who wanted me to succeed," Wesley said. "We got to see a lot of our family and friends there, so that was my personal favorite part."

Fant said the most memorable moment in her experience was being called first runner-up.

"I dedicated my year to wanting to win Miss Mississippi and going on to Miss America, not for myself or for the scholarships to make my family proud, but because I know I have what I have to offer the state of Mississippi," Fant said. "I know that if I would've been Miss Mississippi I would've been an agent for social change."

Wesley said when she was called out as third runner-up, she was excited and humbled. "I was hoping very much that I would make the top 10 this year, because last year I was half a point away from the top 10 since I was 11th last year," Wesley said. "I was extremely honored and humbled to make the top 10, and then when they continued to call me out for the top 7 and then the third runner up, I was very blessed and very excited because I put in so much hard work."

Wesley said now that the Miss Mississippi pageant is over, she is unsure if she will continue with pageants, but she plans to continue pursuing her master's degree in Spanish.

Fant said she also plans to continue her education as well as continue with her love for dance.

"Now that the results of Miss Mississippi are in, my opportunities that I've had to put on hold are now available to me," Fant said. "I've gotten a few calls from 'So You Think You Can Dance" and that would be fabulous and a dream come true to me. Norwegian Cruise Line, that's always an option, but I think my end goal in May is to move to New York. I have a lot of scholarships to where I could comfortable auditioning in New York and pursuing my dreams of being a dancer."

Fant said she plans to finish her senior year at Alabama and travel as a dance choreographer and teacher, as well as use her platform and skills to continue to empower the lives of Mississippians.

"I am so, so happy for Asya Branch for winning Miss Mississippi," Fant said. "She is so deserving and her story is going to impact so many lives."