Vivian O’NealMiss University of Southern Mississippi
Hometown: Hattiesburg, MS
Social Impact Initiative Description: The mission of the CapABLE Curriculum is to educate on bridging the gap between those with disabilities and those without, while empowering students to embrace their differences. The five-day workbook equips K-2 students with knowledge on how to appropriately approach disabilities and teaches how to discover their “superpowers.”
What college do you attend, or have attended, or will attend if High School graduating senior? I graduated from the University of Southern Mississippi in May of 2020.
What is your major? I received a Bachelor of Arts in Public Relations with a minor in Political Science.
List scholastic honors: Luckyday Scholar, Washington Center Scholarship recipient, USM Dean’s List, Mississippi Scholar.
What is your scholastic ambition? I plan to attend law school and obtain a Juris Doctorate in Constitutional Law.
Greatest non-academic accomplishment: Raising over $5,500 for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.
What has been your greatest adventure? Please provide an answer outside of the Miss America program. Being the big sister to a child with a disability and all that comes with it is an adventure in and of itself. My entire family dynamic and worldview shifted and the trajectory of my passions was entirely changed.
What trip shaped your life? Please provide an answer distinct from your social impact initiative. I had the opportunity to work in public policy in Washington, D.C. for a semester. I was in a brand new city working a brand new job without anyone I knew. It definitely was out of my comfort zone, but I could not be more grateful for the experiences and growth that my time in D.C. gave me.
Use three (3) words to describe your greatest assets. Resilient, authentic, passionate
Are you a person of intelligence or of common sense? I would say I have a mix of both. I am an incredibly logical person, so typically my decisions and determinations are made through facts and logic.
Who is the most influential person in your life other than your mother? My dad has influenced my life in more ways than I can count. My love for serving others, politics and 80s pop, I credit to my dad! Any success or opportunity I’ve been given has been because of his support of me and my goals.
What are your 2 favorite hobbies and what led you to them? Participation in the Miss Mississippi program is not considered a hobby for this question. I have always loved participating in the political campaign process through volunteering and keeping up with elections. I grew up watching the news every morning with my dad and the older I got, the more passionate I became about political involvement. Another hobby I have is dancing. I’ve been dancing since I was 3, so it is a huge part of my life.
Who is your most interesting relative and why? My great grandmother. She was born in 1912 and has truly lived our country’s history. Hearing her story never fails to amaze me, as she lived through many of America’s greatest and worst moments in history.
What is the best advice you have received and from whom? Please answer this question with information from outside of the Miss America program. Ever since I was little, my mother always told me “pretty is as pretty does.” This simple phrase encapsulates what it means to be a role model. What you look like on the outside will never matter if what is in your heart is not kind and the words from your mouth are not gracious.
What is your favorite quote? “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.”
Who is your most influential mentor and why? Please answer this question with an individual from outside of the Miss America program. My dance team director, Ms. Tracy Smith. Not only has she served as a role model for me the past four years, she was also someone who could relate to me and my family because her husband used a wheelchair. I have always admired her class and resilience in every situation.
Other than being Miss Mississippi, what is your dream job? My dream job is White House Press Secretary. It combines my love for Public Relations and political science and it would be incredible to work in a building that holds so much history.
What is the one thing about you that people you meet may not immediately realize? I have a great sense of humor! It often doesn’t show when I first meet people, but as I warm up to someone, the more my humor comes out.
What success have you learned most from? Please answer this question with an experience outside of the Miss America program. Completing my internship in Washington, D.C. It was an experience I never thought I was capable of having or succeeding at. However, I learned so much about my strengths and who I am not just as a student or employee, but as a person.
What failure have you learned most from? Please answer this question with an experience outside of the Miss America program. I had the opportunity to serve as dance chair for my sorority. When I was choreographing for a dance competition, I put an immense amount of pressure on myself to win. When we didn’t, I let it overwhelm me despite the fact that we all felt very good about our performance. I later realized that regardless of the outcome, my team looked great, they performed better, and we had such a fun time! Even though we didn’t win, no one can say that it was because we didn’t work hard enough.
What is one important thing you have learned from being in the Miss America Program? More than anything I have learned the importance of making an impact through service by being a part of something bigger than myself. Whether it’s through advocacy work for CMN or my social impact initiative, CapABLE, I am constantly learning. Through the Miss America Organization, I have also learned what it means to be a strong woman who is capable of achieving goals and have gained the confidence to pursue them.
If you are crowned Miss Mississippi, what do you want to accomplish during your Year of Service? I want to travel this great state and be the encouraging voice to those who may not believe they are capable of achieving what they are so worthy of. My goal is to reach Mississippi educators and teach the positive effects of my curriculum, CapABLE. After gaining their support, I hope to work with our state politicians and have legislation written and passed so that all students can experience an inclusive education environment.
Is there a personal connection that made you pick your personal social impact project? Through my years of advocacy work with my brother, I saw a problem in the way the public education system addressed disabilities. There was a physical barrier removed, but the social barrier still exists and that is what CapABLE aims to eliminate. Without my personal experiences with Josiah, I would have never realized that so many children face the same things that he does every day at school.
When is your sense of humor most evident? Anytime I am around my family.
What historical figure best represents who you are striving to be? I have always had an admiration for Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Not only has she been a trailblazer for women simply by sitting on the Supreme Court, she is responsible for many of the freedoms women have today because of her contribution to the law. Her determination and resilience are things I have always tried to implement into my own life.
What gadget can you not live without? My iPhone.
What is your favorite sport and sport team? Football; Southern Miss Golden Eagles.