Wicks’ bright smile and animated conversation style leave no question as to why judges would find in Miss Dixie what it takes to represent the state in the Miss America pageant.
It took Wicks, an Ocean Springs native, five tries for the title. But like 2009 predecessor Anna Tadlock, the fifth time was the charm.
“Last year when I was named third runner-up I thought, ‘Oh they noticed something about me that distinguished me from everyone else. Maybe I should try one more year,'” she said.
The 23-year-old University of Mississippi graduate said that after three years of Mississippi State alums in the role of Miss Mississippi, it’s time for UM to bring home the title. Wicks double majored in international studies and French, and minored in chemistry.
“It feels wonderful,” she said. “Hotty Toddy, by the way.”
Wicks attributes her take-no-prisoners attitude, in part, to an opportunity she had earlier this year to study in Switzerland.
“I had such a wonderful time,” she said. “All my classes were in French, so I really had to put myself out there and it gave me a lot of confidence. I asked questions and had new adventures and tried new things.”
The Miss Mississippi pageant was much like piano competitions she remembers from her younger years, Wicks said.
“I’d be so nervous because there would be people there from all over the state, and some would be extremely skilled,” she said. “Sometimes I’d mess up, and sometimes I’d totally blank out, but I learned to keep going and not to let past mishaps upset me. One of the most important lessons in life is that bad things happen sometimes, failure happens, but if you keep going, the audience appreciates that.”
But Wicks said she’s still got things to learn.
“I wouldn’t consider myself fearless. I just love to try new things,” she said. “A lot of times we’re not aware of our own limitations until we surpass them. Failure is a learning experience, and I learn from my failures more than from my successes.”
“I pray a lot, and I say, ‘Lord if it’s Your will, this will succeed.'”
Her freshman year in college, it was that faith that led Wicks to the first step toward her platform, eyeSTAR, an acronym for EyeSight to All Regions. Wicks went on a mission trip to Bolivia to work with a doctor who works with an orphanage and does medical missions.
“It touched me how he was able to reach out to these people, he was able so directly to help them,” she said.
It set her on a life path, she said. She said after this year she’ll spend as Miss Mississippi, she plans to apply for medical school, a trail blazed by her older brother, Robert.
As Miss Mississippi, Wicks said she plans to partner her platform with the Children’s Miracle Network, the platform of the Miss America Pageant.
While beauty and poise are important, Wicks said they’re not what makes Miss Mississippi, and ultimately, Miss America.
In perfect-sounding French words, she quotes Antoine de St. Exupery’s “The Little Prince.”
“L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux. The essential is invisible to the eye,” she said. “You may see the sash and the crown, but the most important part of Miss Mississippi and Miss America is what’s deep down inside.”
This is the first year Wicks’ brother Robert hasn’t been able to attend the Miss Mississippi pageant to support his sister, she said, but her parents and her sister, Lizzy, were there.
“I couldn’t believe it,” said her father, Tom, on Saturday night. “I thought it was a dream.”
Her mother, Caroline Wicks, said the announcement was overwhelming.
“I’ve always said be your best, and let God do the rest,” she said.
Marie Wicks said she has made many new friends as a result of her time in the Miss Mississippi Pageant system.
“We spend an entire week and we’re together all the time. I’ve gotten to be such good friends with the girls, and these are some of the most talented, intelligent, beautiful girls in the state,” she said, adding that she’s certain there are several future Miss Mississippis among them.
“I just want to thank them all for all they’ve done for me and their friendship and support,” she said.
Wicks will represent Mississippi in the Miss America competition in Las Vegas in January.
from Clarion Ledger by Therese Apel