There she is, Miss Arkansas! Twirler Whitney Williams brings title home to UA

There she is, Miss Arkansas! Twirler Whitney Williams brings title home to UA
BECCA MARTIN-BROWN
bmartin@nwadg.com

A few facts about the new Miss Arkansas, 23-year-old Whitney Williams:

Williams performed her baton routine to “Conga!” by Miami Sound Machine during the talent portion of the Miss Arkansas competition June 19 at Robinson Performance Hall in Little Rock. Later that evening, she became the first twirler to win the Arkansas state crown. (Special to The Free Weekly)
  • She is a senior at the University of Arkansas, where she is pursing a degree in speech language pathology.
  • She won the title while competing as Miss University of Arkansas. She is the eighth Miss University of Arkansas to hold the title of Miss Arkansas.
  • A member of the Razorback Majorettes, she made history as the first baton twirler to be crowned Miss Arkansas.
  • This was her second time to compete on the Miss Arkansas stage. In 2019, as Miss Gateway to the Ozarks, she won the Buddy Coleman Memorial Overall Talent Award, an Alpha and Preliminary Talent Award, the Overall Alpha Talent Award and finished as a Top Ten Semi-Finalist winning an additional $9,900 in scholarships.
  • In addition to the crown, she also won the Buddy Coleman Memorial Overall Talent Award as well as the Sarah Slocum Overall Private Interview Award, the Overall Arrival Award, Preliminary On Stage Interview, Preliminary Evening Gown and Preliminary Talent awards in the Sigma Group, for a total of $14,440 in additional scholarships. As Miss Arkansas, she won a $30,000 scholarship and more than $75,000 in awards, wardrobe, transportation and gifts.
  • She will represent Arkansas this December at the Miss America competition in Uncasville, Conn.

“Everything seemed to fall into place for me this year,” says Williams, whose hometown is Conway. “I had the best possible roommate during Miss Arkansas week, Ebony Mitchell, and the timing for my education and opportunities was the right time. Everything in life happens for a reason. We might only see a word on a page of a chapter of our life’s story and that is OK, but when you go back and remember the the entire story it makes for a beautiful narrative.”

Miss University of Arkansas Whitney Williams performs her baton routine to Conga! by Miami Sound Machine during the talent portion of the Miss Arkansas competition Saturday night at Robinson Auditorium in Little Rock. Williams was crowned as this year’s Miss Arkansas. See more photos at arkansasonline.com/620missar/. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Staci Vandagriff)

Although she grew up in Robertsdale, Ala., Williams’ story starts when she was adopted in Little Rock by David and Kay Williams. She says she has been “given so many opportunities by my wonderful family,” but she also had to fight battles of her own, all of which helped give her the skills to win the Miss Arkansas crown June 19 at Robinson Performance Hall in Little Rock.

“When I was 7 years old, I was diagnosed with dyslexia because I could not read on the same reading level as my peers,” she remembers. “Not only did I become bullied by friends, but also by an educator. I was told that I would never excel in my academics by many people, but I never lost hope. My dyslexia is a superpower because it has allowed me to be so creative due to the right side of my brain functioning on a higher and faster level than my left.”

Dealing with dyslexia, bullying and anxiety, “I poured myself into my flute, piano, paintings, musical theater, singing, dancing and baton twirling,” and her success is reflected in her personal platform, a topic all Miss Arkansas candidates choose as something they’ll discuss as they wear the local or state — or national — crown. Williams’ “Heart for the Arts” focuses on how the arts helped her and how they can help others. She wants to take her Creation Station to all 75 counties in Arkansas and reach as many students as she can. By sharing her personal story of overcoming a learning disability through her passion for the arts, she hopes to inspire others to believe in themselves and realize that they truly can accomplish anything they set their mind to.

So far, “as Miss University of Arkansas, I have traveled to 15 counties and impacted more than 6,000 children,” Williams shares. “My goal is to share my Heart for the Arts and regular heart with the state in those remaining 60 counties and make every single person that I meet feel valued.”

“I have also been a very big Razorback fan since I was born, so twirling for the University of Arkansas has been such a blessing,” Williams says. (The Free Weekly/Andy Shupe)

“I first met Whitney when she competed in Miss University of Arkansas in 2018,” remembers Toni Lindsey, director of media and publicity for the state pageant and director of the Miss UA event. “She won talent, of course, and won a mentor award voted on by the Princess contestants. My first impressions were how kind she was to those around her and how well mannered she was. Everything was always ‘yes, ma’am’ and she called me ‘Ms. Toni.’ She had such a sweet spirit about her! I could tell she truly had a heart for not only her platform but also each person she encountered, and a genuine desire to make people happy and feel cared about.”

The talent that Lindsey remembers followed Williams into this year’s pageant, as she performed a baton twirling routine to “Conga.” She says she was 10 when she picked up her first baton at camp.

“Fast forward 13 years, and little did I know that that same baton would allow me the opportunity to represent my state at Miss America,” she marvels. “I have also been a very big Razorback fan since I was born, so twirling for the University of Arkansas has been such a blessing.”

Whitney Williams, the new Miss Arkansas, shows off her baton twirling for a photo on the University of Arkansas campus. From Conway, she is a senior at the UA pursing a degree in speech language pathology and won the title while competing as Miss University of Arkansas. (The Free Weekly/Andy Shupe)

Ashley Wood, a twirl coach and instructor from Austin, Texas, points to her very busy Facebook feed as proof of the excitement among Williams’ peers.

“When the preliminary rounds kept coming in showing she won, the twirling community was going nuts,” she says. “We all knew the position couldn’t go to a better person.

“The fact that she is also the first-ever baton twirler to win Miss Arkansas was a huge deal,” Wood adds. “Many give twirlers flack about it not being a ‘real talent’ [because] they don’t understand how much work goes into it. Seeing it recognized that way was huge.”

In fact, Williams credits another twirler, Caroline Carothers, Miss Texas 2016, as her inspiration to compete in the Miss America Pageant system.

“I saw her personal and professional development throughout her two years of competing, and I instantly knew that I also wanted to compete,” she says. “This year was my second time to compete on the Miss Arkansas stage. My goal for this year’s competition was to be authentic, and I knew that if I was truly Whitney throughout the week that I would be more relaxed and have more fun.”

But Williams says her dad is her biggest cheerleader.

Williams told an Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reporter the shock of her victory took several minutes to sink in, but “I knew I had it in me.” She also competed in the Miss Arkansas Pageant in 2019 and will now represent Arkansas in the Miss America Pageant in December. (Special to The Free Weekly)

“My father, David Williams, has given me the best possible gift you can give someone. He believed in me,” she says. “He has invested more time into my baton twirling (me) than even his own life. He has not only been a wonderful father, but also the best twirling coach and ‘twirling dad’ a girl could ask for. Not many girls can say that their father can twirl their baton like them!”

Williams says she’ll take a year off from school for “the best job in the world.” And who knows, she says, she might just capture the Miss America crown and follow in the footsteps of Savvy Shields, the most recent Miss Arkansas to win the title in 2016.

“In her first week as Miss Arkansas, I chaperoned Whitney on some of her media appearances and sponsor visits, and she just has a way about of … a way of making people feel seen and heard,” says Lindsey. “She always asked for people’s names and used their names in the conversations — even at lunch and the gas station. It was a simple touch that I’m sure made them feel good. And she always thanked everyone for what they did for her. She’s humble and grateful, and it shows.”

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