McGruder to represent Natchez in Miss Hospitality pageant at USM

Published 11:00 am Wednesday, July 5, 2023

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NATCHEZ — Native Natchezian Damira McGruder, 22, will be competing in the Mississippi Miss Hospitality pageant next week at the University of Southern Mississippi.

She is sponsored in the Miss Hospitality pageant by the Natchez organization, “Pretty Girls with Brains,” which handpicked her to compete from a questionnaire, McGruder said.

McGruder graduated from Cathedral High School in 2019 and is currently studying biological science at USM with the goal of going to medical school to become an OBGYN.

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She the daughter of Terri McGruder and Ricky McGruder, who taught her not to set low expectations for herself, McGruder said.

“My ultimate goal is to build my own hospital and have my own practice,” she said. “The sky is the limit for me. I’m capable of big things.”

McGruder has proven herself “capable of big things” throughout her high school career as she participated in Science Olympiads, National Honor Society and the Key Club.

She once placed sixth nationally at the Science Olympiad competition in Colorado.

She also participated in the Natchez Youth Leadership program, peer ministry, school and church choir and Southwest Electric leadership program and competed in oratorical competitions at the state and national level.

She is an active member of Pilgrim Missionary Baptist Church in Natchez, where she sings and has performed in church plays.

Since high school graduation, McGruder has studied at Mississippi State and USM, where she is a member of the Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students (MAPS) and the American Medical Student Association (AMSA). COVID-19 hit during her second semester and she continued remote studies while working at Ollies Bargain Outlet in Natchez, she said.

Her hobbies are listening to music and singing, traveling, spending time with her family, reading her Bible and watching television sitcoms with complex and comical characters. She also loves spending time with her “fur baby,” her dog Tip.

In 2019, she was Miss Debutante in the Natchez Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, but the Miss Hospitality pageant will be her first opportunity to compete in a pageant of any kind, she said.

“I’m mostly nervous about the whole pageant part,” McGruder said. “I’ve done plenty of interviews and speeches. I’ve learned to use my nerves to be an encouragement instead of a discouragement in anticipation of the event ahead.”

While the Miss Hospitality pageant starts July 9, the competitions officially begin Wednesday with one-to-one interviews with judges, a panel competition, speeches and a commercial competition where McGruder will have to create her own commercial to advertise Natchez. The evening gown presentation is Saturday and will be broadcast on Facebook and YouTube, she said.

In addition to the pageant activities next week, McGruder will be representing Natchez throughout the year at various events and activities until the next Miss Hospitality Natchez is crowned.