Competing for Miss Oklahoma is something Abby Morris always wanted to do, but she never imagined the road it would take to get there.
Unfortunate life circumstances, along with the added toll of the pandemic, kept her from competing for several years. However, these difficulties didn’t keep Morris away for long; this year, she was awarded Miss Sooner State 2023 and will compete for the big title next year.
A senior musical theater major at the University of Central Oklahoma, Morris often appears in campus shows and has often worked two jobs simultaneously while preparing for competitions. Suffice it to say, time management has been the greatest challenge.
“I was so stressed all the time. I had many a mental breakdown, I’m not gonna lie,” she says with a laugh. But the experience itself, she says, is worth it. “The bonds I’ve made, the relationships I’ve made and how I’ve grown as a human being is exponential. I can’t even begin to describe it.”
How it Works
Every year since the Miss America organization started in 1921, women have been competing for state titles like Miss Oklahoma. The process is intense and takes year-round planning, says Kay Alexander, the director of the Miss Oklahoma Organization.
“Once March hits, everything is focused on those girls that will be competing at Miss Oklahoma,” she says.
Women compete for the title through talent portions and advocating for social issues. Also on the table is the chance to win scholarships.
“The bottom line is giving young women an opportunity to pursue not only their educational goals, but their career goals,” says Jack Cooper, the president of the Miss Oklahoma Organization. “That’s not changed,” he says, even with the decision to remove the swimsuit portion of the competition a couple years ago.
“The scholarship money is like icing on the cake,” adds Morris. The social impact portion is what’s most important to her. Since winning Miss Sooner State, she has been pushing to further her program to help children with incarcerated parents, something she experienced at a young age.
“When I’m helping these kids, I’m really healing twelve-year-old Abby when I was told my dad was going to prison,” she says.
Current Miss Oklahoma Megan Gold has, in her tenture, been advocating to end senior hunger. She’s currently working with mobile meal programs and seniors who are home bound.
The opportunities given by the organization have just been as impactful for former champions of the competition. Kelly Masters, who won in 1997, used her experience to further her own goals.
“I competed in Miss Oklahoma because I wanted to earn scholarship money to pay for law school,” she says. “It was all part of pursuing my education and wanting to have a platform to make a difference.”
The only worry she has for women competing today is the impact of social media.
“People are able to go online, be really ugly and hurtful, and stay anonymous,” she says. “And I think that is certainly a level of added pressure that I didn’t have to deal with as a contestant.”
As the organization keeps evolving, the objective of the competition stays the same: help women achieve their goals.
“I do think that we’re at a little bit of a pivotal time right now,” says Morris. “I’m really excited to be along for the ride.”