Patterson makes surprise appearance

Published 5:36 pm Friday, June 24, 2011

2011 Miss Mississippi USA and 2008 Peach Queen Keeley made a surprise appearance at this year's Peach Pageant on Thursday.

On Sunday, June 19, Keeley Patterson was competing under the bright lights of Las Vegas for the Miss USA crown.

Four days later, she made a surprise appearance at a venue where her pageant career first started.

Patterson surprised the crowd by appearing at Thursday night’s Miss Peach Pageant at Chilton County High School.

The Thorsby native earned the Peach Queen crown in 2008, which she told the crowd propelled her to success with Miss USA.

“(Being in the Miss Peach Pageant) was my biggest preparation,” Patterson said.

She recalled how one of the judges in 2009 told her she should look into the Miss USA program after seeing her crown her successor, Keela Ray.

She did just that while a student at Mississippi State University in Starkville, leading up to her becoming Miss Mississippi USA this past winter.

She spent much of this month in Las Vegas preparing for the competition and a week in New York City promoting the pageant and meeting with its owner, Donald Trump.

Peach Pageant emcee Al Headley joked with Patterson, and how she wasn’t “fired” by the star of NBC’s “The Apprentice.”

“He didn’t hire me either,” Patterson quickly quipped.

Overall, she said the Miss USA Pageant was an experience of a lifetime that she will never forget.

“It was a great experience,” she said. “I will cherish it for the rest of my life.”

But Patterson said she was glad to be back home.

“Chilton County will always be home,” she said.

In the fall, Patterson will return to MSU where she is studying marketing. She said she is considering law school, possibly Vanderbilt’s, to eventually become an entertainment attorney.

Patterson also offered girls in this year’s Peach Pageants some encouragement, remembering how she competed in the pageant for 12 years before finally winning the crown.

“Persistence pays off,” she said.

Miss California Alyssa Campanella won this year’s Miss USA crown. First runner-up was Miss Tennessee USA Ashley Durham. Miss Alabama USA Madeline Mitchell was second runner-up.