Miss Natchez Callie Keller heads to state pageant

Published 12:18 am Sunday, November 13, 2011

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT Callie Keller, a Louisiana native and Natchez resident, will represent the city as Miss Natchez at the Miss Magnolia State Pageant, coming up this weekend in Vicksburg.

NATCHEZ — Callie Keller will not represent Natchez as just another pretty face, but as a working girl who loves animals, has creative flair and goals of business ownership.

Miss Natchez will head to the Miss Magnolia State Pageant in Vicksburg Friday, competing throughout the weekend with 19 other young women for the state title.

Inset below, Keller has suKeller submitted this photo for the Most Photogenic contest at the state pageant. Keller will compete with 19 other young women from across the state for the crown.

The winner, crowned Miss Mississippi, has the option to enter America’s Miss and Mr. U.S. National Pageant.

The 22-year-old Louisiana native moved to Natchez after graduating from Vidalia High School in 2007. Keller said she considers Natchez home.

“I’m happy to represent Natchez,” Keller said.

The Miss Natchez Pageant was in May. Keller said she expected to compete against several ladies, but was the only contestant to show up in her division, so she was named Miss Natchez by default. Keller said she was also awarded the supreme crown over all divisions at the local pageant.

Keller is assistant manager at Dianne’s Frame Shop in Natchez, where she assists customers, cuts mats and frames pictures, designs chic greeting cards and assists with interior design.

Keller said she tried college for a semester, but it wasn’t for her. She was ready to get to work and gain a real-world education. Her long-term professional goals include taking over the frame shop after her aunt, Dianne Kirby, retires.

“She takes care of a lot around here,” Kirby said. “Customers who used to call for aunt Dianne, ask for her. (Taking over the store) is my goal for her too.”

Keller is not new to pageants. She said her mother has entered her in pageants since she was just a baby.

“Being in the South, a lot of girls did pageants,” Keller said. “So I guess my mom wanted me to do them too.”

Keller said it was in the pageant circuit where she learned how to get along with others and work hard. Keller has had opportunities to direct local pageants, like the Miss USA Sparkle pageant and the Jim Bowie pageant.

She has also experienced pageant mishaps, like stumbling a few times. But one experience really taught Keller how to work under pressure.

“At the Miss Vidalia Pageant, they announced my name, and as I was coming out, they said they lost my papers,” Keller said.

The documents had details about her life and the platforms she supports.

“I had to go backstage and rewrite everything,” Keller said. “I went from being contestant No. 7 to the last one. But I still got second place.”

Keller said competing in pageants is not about winning.

“It’s about having fun and coming home with the experience,” Keller said.

Keller said she is not nervous about the state pageant yet, but she probably will fight the butterflies when she heads to Vicksburg this weekend. She said her new fiancée, James Kolby Godfrey, family, friends and co-workers will come to show their support.

The Miss Magnolia State Pageant has a twist with the viewer’s choice award. People can access the website and vote for their favorite contestant. Keller compared the viewer’s choice award to Miss Congeniality.

“It’s a big honor,” Keller said.

Keller said the most daunting aspect to the pageant will be the interview portion — which counts for 60 percent of the judges’ score. She said the interview questions can be about anything, so it is not possible to prepare.

“There can be the prettiest girl on stage, but if she didn’t win, she probably didn’t do well on her interview,” Keller said. “I just hope the judges like my personality, and the fact that I am a working girl.”

There is no swimsuit competition or talent portion in the Miss Magnolia State Pageant. But Keller will have to explain her personal platform — spaying and neutering pets.

“I’ve grown up with cats all my life,” Keller said. “And you can see how out of control (animal) populations can get when they aren’t spayed or neutered. It’s so sad to see creatures out on the road.”

Keller said she does her part by sponsoring a spay or neuter procedure for a different needy family each month.

When it comes to pageant fashion, Keller said traditional gowns tend to swallow her petite frame, so she chose a unique style this year called a “high-low gown.” The hem is cut short in the front and is long in the back.

“(Traditional) gowns overwhelm me,” Keller said.

Keller said she purchased all of her pageant outfits at local boutiques — from formalwear to casual.

“I am a firm believer in shopping locally,” Keller said. “Especially since I’m hoping to own my own local business someday.”

Keller said her favorite part of the pageant process is hair, makeup and clothes.

“Getting dressed up and acting like a little girl is the most fun,” Keller said.

Miss Natchez said as a contestant, the most important part of the pageant is behaving gracefully if she is passed over for the crown.

“I’m just happy for someone else (to win),” Keller said. “I’ve never been a sore loser and never cried over a pageant. If you are a sore loser, you probably don’t need to be in pageants.”

Keller, who defines herself as a woman of substance — and also creative, patient and passionate — said she hopes her supporters in Natchez will vote for her on the pageant website to win the viewer’s choice award.

To vote, visit www.missmagnoliastate.com/MissRoster.html and find Callie Keller in the dropdown menu.