2016 has been a great year for recognition in beauty pageants. The winners this year have not fit into the “standard of beauty”, but these women are beautiful nonetheless. Women with tattoos, stretch marks, colored hair, and of different sexualities are gorgeous. This year we have seen the first openly gay Miss America contestant from Missouri, Erin O’Flaherty; Cierra Jackson, Miss DC, took the crown for the competitors’ Swimwear award in Miss America while wearing her natural hair; and now Bayleigh Dayton has been crowned Miss Missouri USA 2017 (a different pageant from Miss America), and she has made history in the process.
Dayton is a twenty-three year old, 5’9, African-American flight attendant from Lee’s Summit, Missouri. She graduated from Baylor University in 2014 with a degree in business and administration, but she also does print modeling on the side. Dayton has done work with Sprint and Hallmark for print modeling (according to Blackgirllonghair.com). The girl has it all! She has the brains, the beauty, and the willingness to do it all, but there was still one thing she was working towards: becoming Missouri’s first African-American Miss USA, and she refused to let that dream go.
It is not a simple task to win a beauty competition, and quite frankly, it is not easy to enter a beauty pageant and even qualify to compete! In Missouri, there are several requirements to be eligible to enter the competition, and you have to meet all of them. Twelve thousand girls participate in the competition each year, but only one can take the crown. This did not scare Dayton though. In 2013 she signed up hoping to reach her ultimate goal--to become Missouri’s first African-American Miss USA. In the end, the competition did not go as she planned; Dayton ended up in the top sixteen women, nowhere near where she wanted to be. It didn’t work out, so she brushed it off and tried again in 2015, and this competition went a lot better. Dayton won the evening gown competition, Miss Congeniality for 2016, and fell just short of first place as runner up. At this point, most would have just given up because nothing is worse than being the first loser in a competition. But not Dayton; she had faith that the saying “third time’s a charm” was true, so she decided to enter for a third time in 2016. Making the decision to enter the competition for a third time paid off when Dayton won in St. Charles on Sept. 25, 2016. When the sparkly crown was placed atop her head, Dayton made history as Missouri’s first African American Miss Missouri USA 2017.
She knew it was coming. She said, “When I made top five last year I knew that I could do this. The insecurities weren’t there. It was easier for me to focus this year,” shortly after she was crowned. Dayton is excited to be able to make a difference with her title. She says that she wants to serve as a role model for other young African-American girls and have an impact on her community. “It’s awesome to be able to put a face with a title,” she continued saying, “I’m obviously the first African-American titleholder in this position. Now girls have someone to look up to and can have an actual role model.” The public is just as excited as Dayton to see what she has in store for them this year.
Dayton will advance to the nationally televised Miss USA pageant in 2017; if she wins that competition she could then move onto the internationally televised Miss Universe pageant.