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Oxford Stories: UM Student Sings Her Way to Miss Mississippi Pageant

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Five months later, and it still hasn’t hit her. Between Ole Miss Idol, the annual Christmas tree lighting on campus, Hotty Toddy Holidays, the judging of various high school pageants, the Mr. Lambda Sigma Pageant, singing the national anthem at multiple Ole Miss events, Christmas parades, being featured at Ole Miss football games, and on and on, Carol Coker has been wading in a social frenzy on her way to the Miss Mississippi pageant.

But if a person asked the sophomore musical theatre major what she is known for beyond the evening gowns and crowns, it would be her voice; the same voice that filled the Ford Center last October to help her clinch the Miss University title.

“It was pretty incredible,” she said. “I’ve always had a love for performing, and looking back on that night, it was one I’ll be telling my kids about, and their kids.”

The road for Coker since the win has been rigorous, requiring her to prepare around 15 hours weekly for the Miss Mississippi pageant. “Time management will always be key. Between meeting with my personal trainer and staying up to date for any questions I might be asked by panel, it is a big time commitment,” said Coker with a smile. “But, I love it.”

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Coker said one of her favorite things about the experience is having the support of her school. “Everyone has been so encouraging and supportive,” she said. “It has been a true honor – doing all of these things while representing my school. This university is a family, and the people I have backing me through this journey are as great as it gets. Man, I love Ole Miss.”

Aside from pageants, Coker has been in four productions that have showcased her vocal ability, including “Grease” and “Shrek: The Musical.” She was cast as the lead female in both roles. She plans to pursue her dreams of becoming a professional performer after her shot at the Miss Mississippi crown.

If someone asked a friend what Coker is known for, chances are neither her vocal abilities nor her performance talents would be mentioned. What was not showcased on the stage that night was Coker’s kindhearted spirit; her desire to be the best leader and role model to young girls, friends and classmates.

Wearing a T-shirt with her hair tied and no makeup, she said, “I guess I just always ask myself, ‘How can I be better?’ ‘What can I do better?’”

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Later, Coker talked on the phone to a good friend, who attends her old high school in Blue Springs, Mississippi, and discussed arrangements for styling her hair and makeup for prom, which happened to fall on the same day as the homecoming parade of American Idol finalist Trent Harmon, which Coker was personally asked to attend.

In the end, Coker didn’t get to do her friend’s hair and makeup. After returning to Oxford, it was clear Coker was deeply disappointed that she was unable to participate in her friend’s big day, but the effort was remembered. “Carol is a beautiful soul,” said Marie Fletcher, Coker’s sorority sister. “Her selflessness shines through in everything she does.”

Coker will compete for the Miss Mississippi title this summer in Vicksburg.

olivia wells

Olivia Wells can be reached at otwells@go.olemiss.edu.

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