Holly Brand had really just begun her pageant career when, at the age of 6, it seemed her destiny was apparent.
“I remember, I think I was watching, it was around 2006, the Miss America Contest,” she said. “I can’t even tell you who won. I can’t tell you any of that. I remember sitting there, watching them walking out in their evening gowns, and my mom was just sitting there on the couch.”
Tiny little Holly, now Miss Mississippi 2021, began to model along with the contestants.
“And I would do my little pose just like they would, and I would ask if I was doing it right,” she said. “But to think that when I go to Miss America there might be a little girl at home watching me and modelint with the TV, it’s just insane. And 6-year-old Holly wouldn’t belive her luck.”
Brand, who is from Meridian and competed this year as Miss Golden Triangle, had also competed in 2019 and was disappointed in her showing. But, as a person of faith, she said she felt like God was telling her to try again.
Then COVID-19 came through, wiping out any chance for a shot at Miss Mississippi 2020. It was frustrating, she said. She was confused, and said she talked to God a lot about why he would give her the dream and not make it a possibility.
“I understood that it was necessary for our safety, but I felt like the Lord was calling me to recompete,” she said. “I was like, ‘Well God, why did you tell me to compete and now here we are?'”
But now, wearing that crown, she sees the big picture.
“Now hindsight is 20/20, I’m Miss Mississippi. I couldn’t have done this job a year ago. I wasn’t ready to be Miss Mississippi,” she said. “And really it might be one of the reasons why I’m Miss Mississippi today.”
Brand looked as though she had a good shot at the crown as Saturday dawned. She had won the talent competition on Wednesday night and the evening wear competition Thursday night.
The communications studies major at the University of Alabama built her platform around volunteerism. “If You See a Need, Take The Lead” is the name, and it’s as simple as stepping up when there’s something you can give help with.
“I learned that one in five women is sexually assaulted while on a college campus,” she said.
So she stepped up, partnering with three Mississippi colleges to address the issue of campus rape. She says it’s something anyone can do. Just see the need, and fill it.
Brand plays three instruments, and comes from a family where everyone plays at least one. She said it’s not just having the talent that’s a blessing, but having the outlet that music brings.
“One of my favorite quotes is ‘When words fail, music speaks,'” she said. “So whenever Im not having a great day or I’m feeling discouraged, I just sit down at my piano and play my music and sing, and I immediately feel better.”
Brand says in two weeks she has her official head shots done in preparation to compete in the Miss America Pageant in December. She knows it’s about to be a crazy year, she said, and she’s ready.
There’s a reason for that. When a question came up about her faith, her face lit up in a larger-than-life smile.
“Faith is a huge part of my life and I’m excited that this is the plan the Lord has for me,” she said. “I can’t wait to see what he has for me over this next year.”