Paris Holland, a freshman at the University of Mississippi, is the 2011 Miss Black Mississippi.
A native of Los Angeles, Holland originally planned to enter the Miss Black California competition; however, early last year she visited her grandparents in Oxford, toured the University of Mississippi campus for the first time and decided to enroll.
“I had never heard of Ole Miss before,” said the biology major. “I came to Oxford to visit my grandparents because I hadn’t seen them in awhile. They told me about the university, so I went on a campus tour and fell in love with it. Everyone was so friendly, and it felt the way I thought a college should feel. I knew it was where I wanted to be.”
At age 18, she became the youngest to ever hold the state title.
“I found out I was Miss Black Mississippi during my Thanksgiving break last year,” she said. “I felt absolutely excited, because I knew this could open up a lot of opportunities for me, including scholarship money to further my education.”
The national competition is scheduled for August in Washington, D.C. According to a press release from the Miss Black USA Scholarship Pageant, the winner will receive more than $20,000 in prizes, along with a walk-on role in Tyler Perry’s hit sitcom “Meet the Browns,” a $10,000 wardrobe and a year of dental care by Dr. Catrise Austin, dentist to the stars.
Throughout her reign in Mississippi, Holland is an advocate for the Heart Truth campaign to raise awareness of heart disease, the number one killer of women in the U.S., according to the National Institutes of Health.
“If we can reach women at a much younger age, we can prevent the disease later,” she said.
Holland was active in her community throughout high school, including work with the Veteran’s Affairs in Los Angeles. She volunteered in the VA pharmacy, held clothing drives and delivered food to the needy.
She is preparing for medical school and a career as a reconstructive surgeon.
“People are critically injured in accidents every day,” she said. “I want to be able to operate on these patients: burn victims, children who are born with deformities, these are the type of people I want to help. I can reconstruct their injuries or deformities and help them look and feel healthy.”
Holland has spent most of her life in Los Angeles and Gilbert, Ariz., but she is proud to call Mississippi home.
“It’s very slow-paced and relaxing here compared to L.A.,” she said. “I don’t feel like I’m always in a hurry or rushing somewhere. Here I can just go through the day and everything flows together.”
A graduate of the School for the Visual Arts and Humanities in Los Angeles, Holland is the daughter of Lucy Carter and Kevin Holland. Her grandparents are James and Manuela Leaton of Oxford.