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New Miss CSU crowned for first time in 2 years

By Jenna Johnson | November 15, 2021
Six young women showcased their social platform, red carpet style and unique talents at the Miss CSU 2022 Scholarship Competition on Saturday, November 13, 2021. Pictured (left to right) are Ashley Bodden, Jennifer Barnett, Hailey Sparks, Brittany Priester, Kirsten-Ansley Stone, and Heather Carver. Photo by Cameron Watkins

After a night of sparkle, song and science experiments on Saturday, a new Miss Charleston Southern University shined through to gain the coveted title and scholarship. Six young women showcased their social platform, red carpet style and unique talents to become the face of the university in 2022. Hanahan native Brittany Priester, a senior business entrepreneurship and graphic design major, is now the reigning queen.

Brittany Priester, the new Miss CSU, performed a jazz dance to "Pink Panther."
Brittany Priester, the new Miss CSU, performed a jazz dance to “Pink Panther.” She was awarded best Overall Talent Saturday evening. Photo by Cameron Watkins

Priester’s social impact initiative, Experience the Arts, reflects her heart for arts-integrated education. “It is up to us to advocate for the arts as a vital part of our educational system and help bring awareness to the benefits of experiencing the arts,” she said. “The best way to do this is by showing real ways in which the addition of the arts into the school curriculum benefits society and helps our children become more successful.”

First runner-up Hailey Sparks, a sophomore elementary education major, plans to be a science teacher after graduation.
First runner-up Hailey Sparks, a sophomore elementary education major, plans to be a science teacher after graduation. She performed a science experiment for her talent. Photo by Cameron Watkins

The new Miss CSU took a first-place win along with Overall Talent and Overall Evening Wear awards. As Miss CSU, Priester receives a $1,000 tuition scholarship, $1,000 towards Miss SC wardrobe, an official Miss America crown and sash, and a customized crown box. Hailey Sparks, sophomore elementary education major, won first runner-up and a $300 scholarship.

For the first time, the Joyce Rea Miss Congeniality Award was presented to a contestant. The award memorializes Joyce Rea who faithfully served at CSU for 26 years, most recently as the Director of Student Activities. Rea was the founder of the Miss CSU Pageant and served as a local executive director and field director within the Miss South Carolina Scholarship Organization for many years. Jennifer Barnett, a sophomore nursing major, was awarded the honor that includes a $200 scholarship. 

McKayla NeSmith, Miss CSU 2020 and 2021, crowned Brittany Priester on Saturday night.
McKayla NeSmith, Miss CSU 2020 and 2021, crowned Brittany Priester on Saturday night. Brittany Watkins, Miss CSU 2014 and now local executive director for the university’s pageant, looks on. Photo by Cameron Watkins

Other candidates also vied for the top prize, including Ashley Bodden (freshman, biology), Heather Carver (senior, biology), and Kirsten-Ansley Stone (sophomore, kinesiology).

This is the first pageant in two years due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. For the first time in the school’s history, Miss CSU 2020 also held the title in 2021. McKayla NeSmith ended her reign on Saturday night with three performances, one singing the National Anthem with her mother.

“Being Miss CSU has been such a wonderful experience. These past two years were unexpected to say the least, and I feel so blessed to have been able to wear that Buccaneer crown through it all,” said NeSmith, a senior early childhood education major. “Thank you to Charleston Southern for allowing me to represent the greatest university ever, but most importantly, allowing me to have a title that represents God’s Kingdom. I feel so blessed to have been called to CSU.”


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