Miss Johnson City Blakely Bays and Miss Historic Jonesborough Lexi White before the Johnson City Christmas Parade in December.
Blakely Bays of Piney Flats and Lexi White of Chattanooga have a lot in common.
They are heavily involved in community service activities and both are highly involved collegiate students. Bays and White also were both crowned queens during the 66th Annual Miss Johnson City, Miss Historic Jonesborough Scholarship Pageant held late last year.
In June, the two women will once again be on stage together, this time representing the Johnson City and Jonesborough communities in the Miss Tennessee Scholarship Competition in Jackson. In the meantime, both Bays and White have a lot planned for the year and are eager to start their reigns.
Blakely Bays, Miss Johnson City
Bays is a communications studies major and dance minor at East Tennessee State University. She got involved in pageants in 2011 when she enterd and won Miss Bristol.
Only 17 at the time, Bays said she fell short of the crown at the Miss Tennessee pageant that year.
“Shortly after Miss Tennessee, I went into the United States (pageant) system,” Bays said. “I was Miss Northeast Teen Tennessee and then I was Miss Teen Tennessee. I was in the Top 10 of Miss Teen United States.”
Even with all her success in pageantry already, Bays doesn’t see herself as a seasoned pro, and said there’s a lot of work that goes into competing.
“If pageants were just walking on stage and looking good, it would be a lot easier,” Bays said. “Just like anything else, it is a job. We’re telling the judges what exactly we want to do for Johnson City. They’re looking for what sets you apart from everyone.”
A dancer for 16 years, Bays is the captain of the ETSU dance team and is on full scholarship for her dance minor.
Bays is interested in going to graduate school after finishing her undergraduate degree, but said she’s still deciding on what she’ll study.
When the Miss Johnson City and Miss Historic Jonesborough pageant started accepting applications last year, Bays said the competition wasn’t immediately on her radar, but a longtime dance teacher convinced her to give it a try.
Dancing a piece choreographed by her teacher, Bays was awarded the top spot in the talent portion of the competition.
She said she also changed up her platform from those she had used in earlier competitions, focusing this time on a more personal campaign message.
“My platform is ‘Beware What You Share’ and it’s Internet safety,” Bays said. “When I was in high school, I was stalked on the Internet. Someone had created a fake profile using my pictures and kind of turned it into a bad situation. It ended up being an older gentlemen and he followed me home from school. He would park outside and follow me home.”
Hoping to get started soon on visiting schools in the region and discussing with kids how they can be safe online, Bays said she will also be asking the local police to support and possibly lecture on this subject with her in the coming months.
“It’s something that’s really close to my heart because if you post anything — like where you’re going or what you’ve done — people can follow you,” Bays said. “I just want to reach as many people as possible.”
Even though she’s busy with school, her work on “Beware What You Share” and dance team events, she said the Miss Tennessee pageant is definitely on her mind.
“The first time, of course being 17, I was scared to death,” Bays said. “Going back the second time, I know what to expect and I’ve learned really who I am. This time going back, maybe it’s not to win Miss Tennessee. Maybe it’s to get as far as I can. In the end, I come back as Blakely Bays, Miss Johnson City, and that’s what matters the most to me.”
Lexi White, Miss Historic Jonesborough
White, a senior psychology major at the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga and newly crowned Miss Historic Jonesborough, dreams of one day becoming a child life specialist, but not before walking on the same stage her grandmother did almost 57 years ago.
“My grandmother was Miss Tennessee in 1957 and she passed away in June 2012,” White said. “I wanted to do something that would kind of honor her and keep her memory alive. I just decided to give the pageants a try, and after my first one I just fell in love with it and wanted to keep competing and get to Miss Tennessee.”
Taking a “this is me” attitude when entering the competition, White said being true to herself paid off in the end.
“I went into it saying I was going to go in and be 150 percent myself and it worked for me,” she said. “That just made me feel really good that I was able to completely be myself and come out with a win.”
While singing “Never Alone” by Lady Antebellum for her talent was something she enjoyed, her passion, she said, lies with her platform Blood Water Missions.
“Blood Water is a grassroots organization that works with the people of Africa, rather than just going over and giving handouts,” White said. “They teach them how to build the wells, how to fix them, repair them. They’re teaching these communities how to actually be able to work and repair these wells so that they can constantly have fresh water. I actually went to Africa with this organization in July of 2012. It was just an incredible, life-changing experience.
“It’s so close to my heart. I just get so excited when I start talking about the work they do. I do feel like I’m helping to make a difference. That’s what everybody wants to do in their life is to somehow make a difference.”
White is working on several fundraising opportunities for her Blood Water campaign, including a fishing tournament and a benefit concert in Chattanooga, to raise awareness for the cause.
“(The benefit concert is) just a vision I’ve had since I’ve gotten back from Africa and I’m just hoping to make that happen,” she said. “I would love to make it happen before Miss Tennessee, but (that’s) depending on the artists that I’m able to get and booking the concert.”
An active member of Sigma Kappa Sorority, White said she stays busy with the organization, as well as her schoolwork. To prepare for Miss Tennessee, she will be taking weekly voice lessons.
Winning Miss Historic Jonesborough was a complete shock, White said, but the experience so far has been worthwhile.
“It’s a lot of work,” White said. “I don’t think people realize how much work goes into it, but it makes you appreciate these girls. It makes you really respect these girls that get up there and do it just more than once.
“Words cannot even describe how excited I am. It’s an emotional thing for me to be even going. That’s the stage my nana was crowned on. Obviously, every girl wants it. The more I start preparing for this and going to different appearances and working with other people, I just feel like I was born to be Miss Tennessee.”
Both Bays and White will also perform in a USO Show for veterans at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center at Mountain Home on Feb. 8.
For more information on the Miss Tennessee Scholarship Pageant, www.misstennessee.org.