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CROWN OF COVINGTON: Nine compete in inaugural pageant, winner moves to Miss Georgia
Miss Heart of Covington
Pageant director Tiffany Humphries discusses proper stage placement, or ‘blocking,’ with contestants during a rehearsal of the Parade of Candidates before the Feb. 12 Miss Heart of Covington pageant at Porter Performing Arts Center. (Special Photo | Cher Smith with Pix by Gigi)

COVINGTON, Ga. — Nine contestants took the stage recently for an event its main organizer hopes will become an annual Newton County tradition.

The inaugural Miss Heart of Covington Scholarship Pageant brought nine women ages 18-24 to Porter Performing Arts Center Feb. 12 to dance, sing, play piano and speak about social initiatives they advocate.

They competed for a $1,000 college scholarship and the chance to move on to the Miss Georgia Pageant in Columbus June 15-18 — a preliminary to the legendary Miss America pageant, said pageant director Tiffany Humphries.

Humphries said she worked with her nonprofit agency’s board of directors for months to organize the event and search for sponsors because Newton County has few such events that benefit young women.

She said she was aware of the public stigma around pageants created by reality TV shows like “Honey Boo Boo” — which turned a sometimes critical eye toward young competitors and their parents.

However, she said pageants can benefit young women by giving them skills they will need to be successful later in life — such as overcoming any hesitancies to speak or perform in front of audiences large and small.

Contestants are required to perform or speak alone on stage — meaning they do not have assistance from anyone else during the event, Humphries said.

“I admire each and every one of them,” she said. “It takes gumption and grit and conviction to be able to put on a show.”

The pageant rules also require contestants to have a “social impact” initiative and explain it, she said.

“These girls are so smart,” Humphries said. “They have something to say.”

The eventual winner, Brittni Evans of Savannah, said she was an advocate for improving young people’s financial literacy to prepare them for adult responsibilities. She is a graduate of the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

“They definitely got the right girl,” Humphries said.

Andrea Epps of Grayson was first runner-up. She was an advocate for protecting young girls from being groomed for later roles in life revolving around their sexuality, Humphries said. 

Sydney Duren, an Eastside High School graduate and current Georgia State University student, was the only Covington resident in the competition. However, it is common for a contestant not to reside in the geographic area a pageant’s title suggests.

Duren was named the pageant’s People’s Choice award winner, and Evans was its Miss Congeniality award winner, according to the show program.

Humphries is a Covington resident who competed in pageants in her hometown of Statesboro. 

She said her organization’s focus now is preparing Evans and Epps for the Miss Georgia competition.  

The family of the late Ida Davis, a longtime Newton County educator, provided half the money for the $1,000 scholarship. The rest came from Flash ‘n Dash Car Wash, Tessa Fearon and Heartscapes of Covington, according to the program for the event.

Some others providing prizes were Woven Boutique of Covington, Covington Nutrition, Supreme Tanning, and Jeffery King.

Marlena Greiner, who served as Miss Georgia in 1986, was the mistress of ceremonies. 

The event’s affiliation with the Miss Georgia Pageant required it to use three judges sanctioned by the organization and two local judges with no pageant experience. 

Judges included Beverly Collier of Covington and District 110 State Rep. Clint Crowe, R-Jackson, Crystaline Mabry of Columbus; and Jill Pittman and Nita Calloway, both of Metter.

Miss Heart of Covington 2
Miss Heart of Covington winner Brittni Evans (left) poses with MaKayla Briscoe, who was named Miss Heart of Covington’s Outstanding Teen 2022. (Special Photo | Cher Smith with Pix by Gigi)