The new Miss Southwest Arkansas is a familiar face to folks here in Hope as hometown girl Suzie Gresham emerged from a field of eight contenders Saturday night at Hope's Klipsch Auditorium.
The new Miss Southwest Arkansas is a familiar face to folks here in Hope as hometown girl Suzie Gresham emerged from a field of eight contenders Saturday night at Hope’s Klipsch Auditorium. The victory also gives Gresham a second entry into June’s Miss Arkansas Pageant, where she was a new contestant last year as Miss Ouachita Baptist.
“Coming in as an Alpha — a rookie — at Miss Arkansas last year left room for so many questions without knowing what to expect, but that’s what is so special about the Miss Arkansas Organization. The young women that had competed before take you in like their own and really help you navigate the week,” Gresham said.
For Gresham, then-reigning Miss Ouachita Baptist University, her first foray into the Miss Arkansas pageant ended up as a learning experience on the fly as her original performance — dance — got sidetracked by a softball injury, so she took up singing as her talent.
“I really look forward to the talent phase of competition this year at Miss Arkansas. Thankfully, I am fully healed and ready to put on the dancing shoes again. At Miss Southwest, I performed a jazz dance to ‘Woman’s World’ by Cher and really enjoyed every minute of getting to channel my inner Cher on the stage,” Gresham said.
“Some people may think, ‘Cher? Where did that come from?’ Well, truth is, on the way to many ball games, practices, or events in the car, my mom and I would let loose and turn on some Cher,” she said.
“Not to mention, since we nearly share birthdays, we gifted ourselves tickets to Cher’s Final Farewell Tour a few years ago, and ‘Woman’s World’ just happened to be the opening song. To this day, every time I hear the song, it puts me right back in that moment at concert with my mom as we got to enjoy something we both loved together,” she said.
In addition to dancing again, Gresham has also changed her look and style as well as attitude since the Miss Arkansas competition nine months ago.
“I do have quite a drastic change in physical appearance as I cut off 10 inches of my hair since Miss Arkansas last year! I can’t wait for pageant week this year as I will not be near as worried about what different hairstyles I am doing for each night! I am embracing this new look and am having so much fun with it,” Gresham said.
“On this journey over the past year, I have been pulled and stretched in so many different directions and have grown so much. Because of this life changing experience, I am not afraid to take on extra leadership roles or extra risks that I may encounter and I have learned that you have to just laugh at yourself every once in awhile,” she said.
“It is very easy to get caught up in the preparation process and making appointments and appearances, but what I have realized is that it really is all about enjoying the journey that you have been on and taking in every single moment,” Gresham said.
Since the pageant last year, Gresham has maintained a busy schedule, balancing a job and a number of community activities. She has been working as Field Director of Public Relations with her family’s company, Pafford Medical Services, and she has been a provisional member of the Junior Auxiliary of Hope, a Hempstead County Relay for Life Committee Member, a school board member at Garrett Memorial Christian School, and she is presently serving on the planning committee benefitting Kid’s College in Hope.
One thing that didn’t change was Gresham’s commitment to her platform from last year, “First Aid First: Don’t Wait.”
“My platform is still something I am very passionate about; think that 75-to-80-percent of cardiac arrests happen in the home. That’s a very scary statistic. The statistics become even more sobering as only 46-percent of out-of-hospital victims receive the help they need during a cardiac arrest and almost 90-percent cardiac arrests result in death,” she said.
“My goal is to empower and equip people of all ages with the proper tools needed to save a life. Simple acts such as CPR or the Heimlich Maneuver can save the life of stranger or even more likely the life of a loved one, but it is paramount that once the tools are there, that action is initiated during times of need. What good is it to have the tools if you do not use them,” Gresham said.
Graduating from OBU last year with a BA in Management, Gresham also graduated from Spring Hill High School in 2012, and she had multiple scholarship opportunities in both athletics and academics; she had starred in both basketball and softball in high school.
As the new Miss Southwest Arkansas, Gresham said, “I plan on sharing my platform and life saving message to all of the schools in our community and surrounding areas with students of all ages along with hosting community wide CPR Certification classes since I am also an American Heart Association licensed instructor.”
“After traveling nationally and internationally, I am always drawn back to my home here in Southwest Arkansas. I have represented Southwest Arkansas through athletics and service events, but I am so honored to be able to represent my home on the Miss Arkansas stage. This place means so much to me and I cannot wait to see what this year of service entails,” she said.
And then, Gresham gets her second chance at the Miss Arkansas pageant in June, where last year, Miss Arkansas Savvy Shields shocked the nation to become the new Miss America in September.
“She has truly set the bar high. She has served in so many amazing ways and I could not be more proud of the work she is doing and the way she continues to let her inner beauty radiate to everyone she comes in contact with. It was an absolute honor to be standing on the same stage with her during Miss Arkansas last year and interact with her as we were in the same group. To know her is to love her and she is the living proof of all the things Miss America is about and so much more,” Gresham said.
“And the Miss Arkansas Organization is much more than a ‘beauty pageant.’ This is an organization that celebrates academic achievement, community leadership, and the willingness to strive for excellence,” she said.