Caleigh Jo Erwin, of Dyersburg, and Karenna Rainey, of Adamsville, have been competing in pageants their entire lives. The two University of Tennessee at Martin students were crowned Miss UT Martin and Miss Tennessee Soybean Festival respectively during the combined pageant held Nov. 5 in the Boling University Center’s Duncan Ballroom. The Miss UT Martin Scholarship Pageant is in its 59th year, while the Miss Tennessee Soybean Festival title was awarded for the 23rd time.
Completing the Miss UT Martin court are Malea Bigham, of Turtletown, first runner-up, and Sierra Smith, of Newland, North Carolina, second runner-up. The Miss Tennessee Soybean Festival first runner-up is Kailey Duffy, of Holladay, and second runner-up was Tera Townsend, of Nashville. Bigham and Smith are current UT Martin students, and Duffy is an alum.
Pageant competition includes private interview, fitness and wellness, talent and evening wear. Each contestant is scored individually from one to 10 in each category during the daylong competition. Erwin, a fourth-year fashion merchandise major, believes winning the Miss UT Martin title was the perfect way to finish her collegiate career. “I feel this is an opportunity to give back to the university and community after all it has given me,” she said.
Participating in pageants has also given Erwin a platform to spread awareness about lupus, an autoimmune disease she was diagnosed with at 18 years old. “I strive to be a support system for other young women and men that are diagnosed with any autoimmune disease,” she said. “I want to be an example to not let the disease take away from who they are but to embrace it.”
Karenna Rainey, a health and human performance major, credits pageants for helping turn her into the woman she is today. “Pageants have shaped my life in so many ways, whether it be lending a helping hand to someone in need, gaining public speaking and communication skills, or simply making new friends,” said Rainey. She is excited to represent the Tennessee Soybean Festival and the city of Martin in the Miss Tennessee Volunteer pageant next summer. “It is programs like this that give young women like me the opportunity to better themselves while continuing their education.”
“We are very excited to have Caleigh Jo and Karenna represent UT Martin and the Tennessee Soybean Festival this year,” said Katrina Cobb, interim general manager for West TN PBS and pageant executive director. “This is the first time in several years that we have UTM students holding both titles, so this is a special honor.”
Erwin and Rainey will compete in the statewide Miss Tennessee Volunteer Scholarship Pageant Wednesday-Saturday, July 26-29, 2023, at the Carl Perkins Civic Center in Jackson. The winner of the crown will serve as the governor’s spokesperson for character education and receive $25,000 in scholarship money.
For more information on either title, contact Katrina Cobb at email@example.com or 731-881-7561.