HOPE HARRINGTON OAKES
Like most young women her age, Columbus native Jasmine Murray stays pretty busy. The Mississippi State University Broadcast Journalism major has combined her studies with her Miss Mississippi Pageant preparation (she is this year’s Miss Riverland), her church worship activities, her family life and her platform mentoring program “13 Going On 30.” It is things like these that have help produce an extremely poised, intelligent and beautiful young lady.
As a little girl, Ms. Murray started competing in various beauty revues in her school. In 2007 she competed in Miss Mississippi’s Outstanding Teen competition and took home the crown. She went on to make the Top Ten at the national competition. That year, she also had the honor of singing The National Anthem at the Miss America Pageant. Currently, Ms. Murray serves as Miss Riverland 2014, having completed her year Miss MSU 2013 in November, and as a result, was able to compete for the Miss Mississippi title. In an interview conducted a few months ago, Ms. Murray said, “For me, this will be my third year of competing. I am just thrilled about the opportunity, again, because the past couple of years I’ve had such a great opportunity to even go….it was just a dream, and I’m so grateful for that. I’ve just been working harder than ever.” The third time was obviously the charm, as Jasmine Murray was crowned Miss Mississippi 2014 last Saturday night in Vicksburg. Ms. Murray said, “I have dreamed about being in the Miss America Pageant since I was a little girl. This feels surreal!” Competing as Miss Riverland and singing “Something’s Got a Hold on Me” in the talent portion of the contest, Ms. Murray outpaced 40 other contestants to take the state title. She was the pageant’s only double preliminary winner, winning talent and swimsuit preliminary awards. She also has the distinction of being the first former Miss Mississippi’s Outstanding Teen to be crowned Miss Mississippi.
Her extensive background in music has been very helpful with obtaining her life’s goals. “I’ve always wanted to sing, and always had a huge passion for music and always just loved it. I got really serious about music when I was 12 or 13, and I started taking vocal lessons from Bob Westbrook. I was in church choir, school choir, the Columbus Girlchoir, and Frontline. I’ve really been blessed to work with a lot of people and it’s definitely helped so much. I feel that you really never stop learning, and I just want to get better at my craft.” In addition to having worked with Bob Westbrook and Dr. Cherry Dunn, Ms. Murray has worked with other vocal coaches such as Cheryl Harper of Columbus, and Bill Wolfe, of Kansas City, MO, who works closely with the Miss America Organization. “He travels all over the country working with different girls for various competitions, and has worked with several Miss Americas and Miss Mississippis on music arrangements and vocal coaching. He is really amazing.”
Of course, all that hard work also paid off in a most unusual, but amazing way when she competed in Fox Network’s national hit reality competition, “American Idol”. Then, 16, Ms. Murray made it all the way to the Top 13, having beat out literally thousands of competitors. “I have to say I’d never experienced anything like that before. It’s crazy! I grew up watching the show, so for me, I’d always wanted to do it. I decided to go forth and audition for it in Jacksonville, Florida. My mom and sister, Kimberly, went with me, and we just did it. Kimberly actually auditioned with me. She made it to the round before you got to the big producers: Randy, Paula, and Simon (you have five auditions before you even get to them). It’s a long process, and we auditioned together. I have no idea how I made it to the next round, and she didn’t. You just never know what they’re looking for, what they want, what they don’t want. Being so young, it was a really crazy experience. I was 16 that August when I auditioned, and turned 17 in December before the season started up.”
After “American Idol” Ms. Murray went on to complete high school, and is now enrolled in Mississippi State’s Communication Degree program. She credits local newscaster, Aundrea Self as being a positive and helpful influence in her life. “Communication has really been great for me. I’ve enjoyed it, so far. I’ve only been studying at Mississippi State for a couple of years, now. I actually took off from school about a year and a half, and was focusing on my music career. I was traveling back and forth to Nashville and working with writers and producers cultivating my sound, and working on what kind of artist I was going to be.”
These days, Ms. Murray also uses her artistic gifts in a couple of ways that hits close to her heart. She serves as worship leader of Pinelake Church in Starkville. “The past couple of years, I feel like I’m transitioning. I started leading worship at Pinelake Church in Starkville. I feel like my calling is now more worship-filled Christian music. I am absolutely loving that, right now…it’s phenomenal. I just feel such a difference up there when I’m leading worship and singing for Him. There’s just a difference when you’re singing to Him…it means so much.” The other is a mentoring program she created to help young girls keep a positive influence in their lives. Ms. Murray states, “My ‘13 going on 30’ motivational camps, and public speaking tours have allowed me to mentor and reach hundreds of young girls. At these camps, teen participants act out skits on how to stand up for themselves and how to deal with peer pressure. I was bullied in school to the point of being beat up on the playground. I didn’t quite know how to stand up for myself. I want others to understand and be educated so that they are not victims of bullying and so they won’t make unwise decisions because of it. Teens also get to listen to motivational speakers on topics such as goal setting, timing of big goals in our lives, workshop media knowledge and have rap sessions where they can talk to other teens about important issues like cyber bullying and self-esteem improvement. We then talk about being an individual and standing out instead of following the crowd. I also travel around the state to schools, churches, and community centers advocating my platform issue to hopefully make a real difference and change lives.” Through the Miss Mississippi and Miss America pageants, she has also stayed active in promoting The Children’s Miracle Network.
Realizing that her really busy life is about to go into overdrive, Ms. Murray has little time for personal relationships, but that’s okay with her, for now. She has strong family ties with her mother, Lisa, her father, Samuel, and siblings Andrea, Kimberly Eliscia, and Micah, as well as her nieces and nephew. Thinking back on her achievements, Ms. Murray says, “I definitely dream big, but you have to start somewhere. You never need to stop and have limitations on your dreams…just try to grow and get better.”