How the Miss LSU Pageant pivoted and prepped for the age of COVID

Miss LSU 2019 Pageant. Photo courtesy Leah McPhearson.

As many events of the previous year faced the fate of cancellation, so did the Miss LSU-USA Pageant. Since 1999, Delta Zeta LSU has hosted the pageant without ever skipping a beat. While last year’s pageant was forced to surrender to COVID-19, the Miss LSU 2021 pageant is back in full swing this year on Sunday, March 14, at 5 p.m. via livestream. To learn more about what this year’s pageant has in store for audiences at home, we reached out to the executive director of the Miss LSU committee, Leah McPhearson.

“The money that we fundraise is split among our five philanthropies,” says McPhearson, noting that the pageant benefits Delta Zeta’s Hearing and Speech philanthropy, donating to organizations including the Starkey Hearing Foundation and The Emerge Center in Baton Rouge. We’re on track with the same fundraising we’ve done, which was pleasantly surprising to us. We’re still going to be able to donate around what we’ve donated in the past.”

Last year’s pageant was canceled just a few days before it was supposed to happen, explains McPhearson. “It was really hard for us at first to accept, but we had a really great group of contestants last year, and a few of them are competing this year. We dedicated Miss LSU 2020 to Carley McCord Ensminger. We still wanted to be able to do something with that year, so we figured Carley would be the perfect person to honor, and all of our contestants were on board with it.” 

Miss LSU-USA 2019.

While the pageant is in motion this year, it will come with some notable differences.

“We’re still operating under the Phase 2 reopening guidelines,” says McPhearson. “So we won’t have a live audience; it will be completely livestreamed. That’s definitely going to be the biggest difference this year. We’re also going to be having a Zoom interview with our Miss LSU 2019, Keighley Kelley. She won’t be able to make it to the pageant, so that will be different, but we’re making the most of what we’ve got, and we’re just happy to have a pageant this year.” 

As this week falls during Women’s History Month, McPhearson noted that the pageant is not only important to the LSU community but also to the the women who take part in it.

“The biggest thing is women’s empowerment and the confidence that it brings to the women who choose to compete,” says McPhearson. “I got involved with Miss LSU more for the philanthropic side of it, but now that I’ve gotten the chance to get to know the contestants and see them work together to build each other up, that’s something that struck a chord with me and made me realize that’s what we should all be doing everyday–empowering each other. I think somebody who stands for LSU as a whole should be someone who wants to build up the community.”


Livestream tickets to the Miss LSU pageant are available for purchase here.