Miss Georgia, Andrea Bailey, understands better than most the value of never giving up.
In her fifth and final year of eligibility for competing for the Miss Georgia crown, Bailey won. At age 24, this was also Bailey's last chance to compete for the highest pageant honor in the country at the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, N.J., in September.
Miss America contestants must be no older than 24 to compete. Some may attribute the timing of her win to luck, but Bailey said her success can be attributed to perseverance.
"I competed in nine pageants before I ever won one," said Bailey. "I was runner-up for the past three years in a row for Miss Georgia. If this whole experience has taught me anything it's the value of perseverance. If there is any message I would give to other girls out there wanting to compete for anything it would be to never give up on your dreams."
Bailey grew up in Evans and is a 1997 graduate of Evans High School. She moved to Columbia County from Alabama at age 5 and her parents, Stan and Janet Bailey, still live in Evans.
Preparing for Miss America while living in Columbus, Ga., headquarters of the Miss Georgia pageant, Bailey came home last week to lend support to the American Red Cross, a cause she embraced as a teenager.
Miss Georgia Andrea Bailey tries on dresses at Brittany's House of Elegance in Martinez in preparation for the Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City, N.J., in September. Bailey is a 1997
graduate of Evans High
Photo by Donnie Fetter
"Each Miss America contestant must have a platform, or cause, they support," said Bailey. "I've been involved with the Red Cross since I was 17, and I wanted to be able to use whatever celebrity I have to support the tremendous work they do."
After campaigning on behalf of the Red Cross, Bailey took the opportunity to visit with her parents and shop for dresses she will need for Miss America. Dressed in a pink, sequined cocktail dress she was trying on at Brittany's House of Elegance in Martinez, Bailey sits with perfect posture in a high-backed leather chair and said she cherishes these moments of leisure.
"Everything has been very hectic since I won Miss Georgia," she said. "I don't have much time for a personal life right now, so I truly look forward to coming home under any excuse."
A singer and musician, Bailey said she originally competed in pageants as a means of showcasing her musical talents.
"I got involved in pageants because I'm a singer and I wanted to compete in the talent competition," she said. "It turned out to be much more difficult than I thought. There's a lot of work that goes into this, not the least of which is developing interviewing skills and choosing a platform."
She is a former Miss Augusta, Miss South Georgia, Miss Northeast Georgia, Miss Coastal Georgia and Miss Savannah. She has won more than $65,000 in scholarship money that she has used for her musical education.
A graduate of Georgia State University with a bachelor of music degree in sound engineering, Bailey said if she doesn't win Miss America she plans to use the $15,000 she won for Miss Georgia to attend the Savannah College of Art Design in the fall of 2004 to get a masters degree in sound design.
"One of the greatest blessings from this is that I haven't had to pay for my education," she said. "I'm very grateful that I've been able to go to school without putting myself in debt."
Although she has planned for the future, Bailey said she is trying not to look past September.
"I know the odds of winning are one in 51," said Bailey. "But after winning Miss Georgia on my fifth try, I feel like the time is right."
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