By Kendall Patterson
This past week, 21-year-old Abbie Bayless, who graduated from Chester County High School in 2018, competed in the Miss Tennessee Pageant for 2021.
After competing for Miss Tennessee in 2019 and earning third runner-up, she planned to compete again in 2020 when she earned the title of Miss Greater Gibson County. However, due to the Coronavirus, the Miss Tennessee pageant was not able to be held until this year. Thus, she held the title of Miss Greater Gibson County for two years.
This year, she was able to place as the fourth runner-up and make it in the top five again.
Bayless said she was happy she made it that far due to the tough competition.
“The competition this year was incredibly tough. There were so many amazing deserving women. There were women that had been competing for five years and it’s only my second year,” she said.
“So as I was standing there when I made the first Top 12 cut, I had a sense of peace in the way I had performed all week, and I was like if this is where my journey ends this year, then I’m okay with that because I understand that there’s so many incredible women that deserve a spot in the top five and luckily my name was the first one called so I didn’t have to wait there in anticipation. Truly at that point, I was completely at peace. Of course I wanted to be Miss Tennessee but at that point I was standing next to four other incredible, deserving, well-spoken women and I knew that whatever placement the judges saw fit for me was where I needed to be at this point in my life.”
Her mother Amanda Bayless was proud she was able to do so well and place in the top five again.
“I’m ecstatic she made it in the top five her second trip to Miss Tennessee. That’s an amazing accomplishment. Most girls go back four or five times before they ever get it in the top five. I’m very, very proud of her accomplishment,” Amanda said. “It did take a whole lot of work and dedication. The night she did talent was probably the best talent I heard in a long time, so I’m very, very proud of her.”
During the talent part of the competition, Abbie sang “A Change is Gonna Come” by Sam Cook.
Her platform for Miss Tennessee 2021 was advocating against sexual assault.
Her mother is even more proud of how brave she is to speak out about the issue and how it was personal to her since she is a survivor of sexual assault.
“She had to overcome a lot of things to be able to speak about her experience and her trauma. That was a big thing for her to be able to come out and talk about that,” Amanda said. “That’s something very hard for people to hear. It’s even harder for people who have experienced to talk about it, but Abbie believed that if she can reach one person, it’s totally worth sharing her story. Her goal is to help as many people as she possibly can.”
“It’s not just a topic I picked for a pageant. It’s something very personal to me. And I think it really makes a difference in competing, because it makes me want to work for it even more,” she explained. “It was something really hard for me to work through in my younger years, and as I got into college and was able to be provided the help I needed, I realized how much of a difference it (being provided help) made in my life, and it was something I wanted to be able to provide for other people. It’s just a topic that a lot of people don’t talk about because there’s so much shame… and embarrassment surrounding the entire topic and it’s really difficult for people to be able to own their story.”
She continued to tell how she hopes speaking out against sexual assault as her platform for the Miss Tennessee can impact lives.
“I think that being on such a large platform like Miss Tennessee and being able to share my personal journey and being very vulnerable about it creates kind a of a sense of relatability and hopefully it helps people become empowered and own their stories as well.”
Abbie founded an organization called “Stand together – Advocating for Victims of Sexual Assault” that she is in the process of getting recognized as a 501c3.
Local children, Erby Murphy and Vivian Sanders were crowned as Tristar Princesses during the Miss Tennessee competition at Graceland’s Guesthouse. The princesses pariticipated in a parade on Beale Street, were special guests at The Peabody Duck Ceremony, and had a luncheon at the zoo. During each night of competition, princesses performed a dance on stage and modeled in their white gowns on stage with their candidate who was competing for Miss Tennessee.
The Miss Tennessee Program book was printed by the local business, Brothers Printing.