Brianna Mason spent the last four years working to reach her goal of becoming the first African American crowned Miss Tennessee.”I can’t believe I am standing here right now with this sash and this crown and that means I am going to Miss America,” 23-year-old Mason said minutes after becoming Miss Tennessee 2019. Mason, a first-grade school teacher and Nashville native, won the pageant in her fourth attempt. She was last year’s second runner-up competing as Miss Knoxville. But she said she was determined to win a competition in which no past winner looked like her. And not just for herself.
‘How special this is’
“I can’t even put into words how special this is,” Mason said at a press conference after her win. “I have been competing for so long, and there’s a Miss Tennessee room with portraits of all past Miss Tennessees, and none of them looked liked me. “And so I’ve made it my goal for the last couple of years to make sure my face gets up there not just for me, but for all of the young ladies who look like me and don’t think they can do it just because of their skin color. “I’m here to tell you that it does not matter what your skin color is. It does not matter what your religion is. You can do anything that you want.” Mason, who has a bachelor’s in psychology and a master’s in elementary education, both from the University of Tennessee, said she would take a year’s leave from her teaching job.
A crowd favourite wearing a periwinkle blue Grecian gown with a hot pink underskirt, Mason fell to her knees in tears when she realized she had won. It was apparent from the Saturday crowd that Mason was an early favorite. Much of the crowd applauded and screamed whenever her name was announced. She had also won both her talent and her on-stage question preliminaries. And she tackled one of the night’s most controversial questions during what host Barry Amato called the competition’s “job interview” section. In that category, each contestant had to quickly answer a blind question. Each woman selected a sealed envelope that contained the question from a selection spread on a table.
Mason’s question was if she believed Confederate monuments should be removed from public places in Tennessee. Mason answered that, “as an African American woman” the Confederate symbols did not make her “feel positive.” “I do feel like it is part of our history, and if it is part of our history, it belongs in a museum but not in a public place,” she said. Miss Lexington Lauren Dickson was first runner-up and received a $10,000 scholarship.
She and Mason clasped hands and looked at each other before Amato announced Dickson as runner-up. First time in Knoxville Mason has crowned Miss Tennessee after four nights to competition at the University of Tennessee’s Thompson-Boling Arena. She receives a $15,000 scholarship and will compete in the Miss America pageant on Sept. 8. Twenty-seven young women competed for the title, the first held outside the West Tennessee city of Jackson.
For more than six decades, the Miss Tennessee Scholarship Pageant was held in Jackson. But last year the Miss America organization revoked the license that allowed the Jackson pageant directors to hold the competition. The pageant, now called the Miss Tennessee Scholarship Competition, then moved to Knoxville. Pageant organizers said Saturday they would announce next year’s venue in the coming weeks.
Content Credit: knoxnews.