Miss Florida once again hails from Gator Nation
Published: Monday, July 15, 2013 at 5:07 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, July 15, 2013 at 5:07 p.m.
After competing against 45 other contestants, a Gator was crowned Miss Florida 2013 on Saturday, the second straight year the honor has gone to a University of Florida student.
Myrrhanda Jones, a 20-year-old telecommunications senior, won the 78th annual Miss Florida Pageant and won $21,300 in scholarship money. The pageant was held at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg.
Jones said it was an incredible honor and a wonderful opportunity to be crowned Miss Florida.
“The Miss America Organization is the largest scholarship fund for young women my age, and to represent Florida means the world to me,’’ she said.
Jones has been active in the local pageant scene for many years. A graduate of Buchholz High School, she was Miss Gainesville 2011. Her parents are Charles and Lynn Jones of Gainesville.
Jones, who has been twirling the baton from the age of 6, has won the title of Miss Majorette of the Southeast. She is a baton twirler for the UF Gatorettes, and she twirls almost every game day.
She was recognized at the Miss America Pageant several years ago as the teen contestant who raised the most money for the Children's Miracle Network.
Jones said UF should be proud of her success and that of Laura McKeeman, a UF graduate who was crowned Miss Florida 2012.
“The past two Miss Floridas have come from UF and they should take pride in that,’’ she said. “Outside of education they are preparing us for life, and I think that’s what the judges see.’’
Jones is a member of the Alpha Psi chapter of Delta Delta Delta sorority and she said the love and support she has received from her sisterhood has been outstanding. She said Miss California is also a member of Delta Delta Delta.
Jones said being crowned Miss Florida was surreal.
“My immediate reaction was just, ‘Thank you, Lord.’ I have put so much hard work and determination into being Miss Florida.”
Jones said she is excited and blessed to be able to go on to the Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City, N.J. in September.
“It was the accumulation of years of hard work that has finally paid off, and I can finally call myself Miss Florida,’’ she said.
Kelsey Meany, vice president of public relations for UF Delta Delta Delta, said, “I think it’s a great reflection on the sorority. What we do in our sorority is produce some of the strongest leaders around. She definitely deserves it.”
Robert Danielson, the communications manager for the city of St. Petersburg, said the contestants have to go through a personal 10-minute interview with a panel of judges, a swimwear competition, a talent competition, an evening wear competition, and in the preliminaries they have to answer an on-stage question.
Jones said the most difficult part for her is the interview because a contestant will not know what the judges will ask, so she must be well-versed on current events and political policies.
Danielson said there are 47 local pageants in Florida, and those winners go on to compete for the title of Miss Florida. One of the local winners did not show up to the Miss Florida Pageant for personal reasons.
Jones was Miss Palm Coast going into the pageant.
The contestants are eventually narrowed down to the top 10 women plus one woman who is the people’s choice award, and those 11 contestants go on to the semifinals.
“In the last nine years this organization has given away $458,000 in scholarships to young women,’’ he said.
Danielson said the pageant has been held in St. Petersburg for a total of nine years.