By Judy Smith
Most little girls grow up having fantasies and dreams of being a princess and getting the honor to wear a sparkly tiara or crown, and Anne Elizabeth Buys of Vicksburg was no different. Growing up in the mecca of the Miss Mississippi pageant made the dream of wearing the impressive crown of the “Magnolia State” even more of a goal and dream that Buys would work hard to achieve. Attending the Miss Mississippi pageant was a major family tradition for the Buys family, and it is almost overwhelming to Buys to think that she actually did bring the title home to her hometown and the opportunity to represent the state she loves so dearly at the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City.
“My parents took me to my first Miss Mississippi pageant when I was three years old, and I haven’t missed one since,” Buys said. “My parents even have a picture of me when I was four looking at a Miss Mississippi pamphlet, and it does seem like a dream sometimes that I really did win. I feel so blessed and have received such love and support from my hometown.”
The city of Vicksburg has embraced its reigning Miss Mississippi and is so proud to call Buys one its own. The elegant and energetic Buys has felt so blessed to have support throughout the community and state, and has some supporters in pretty high places in her own hometown. “Words cannot express how proud I am of Anne Elizabeth,” Vicksburg Mayor George Flaggs, Jr., said. “I have always said that Vicksburg has some of the best home-grown talent that you will ever find. She is an outstanding example of what hard work, determination, and prayer can do for an individual. She had a dream and did not stop persevering until the dreams was accomplished.”
For the charming daughter of Mark and Judy Buys, the Miss Mississippi pageant has always been a major part of her life as she won the title of Outstanding Teen at age 14, participated in the Magnolia Princess program, and performed as part of the talent showing off her impressive dancing skills. And her Halloween costume was even Miss Mississippi a time or two. Growing up, Buys and her two brothers were given the freedom and encouragement to follow any activity or sport that they wanted to pursue, but Buys’ heart was always drawn back to dance. Her talent for the Miss Mississippi Pageant was ballet and what she will be performing her dance for the talent portion of the Miss America pageant.
“Dancing has always been my passion,” Buys said. “It has always given me the freedom to express myself and my feelings.”
Although each member of the Buys family supports one another in whatever path they pursue, Buys admitted with a laugh that her home is a bit of “a divided house,” especially during football and baseball season. Buys attended Mississippi State University like her mother, and they always supported their Bulldogs while her brothers leaned toward supporting the Rebels of the University of Mississippi where her dad played baseball.
“Sometimes it can get kind of heated in the rivalry, especially when it’s time for the Egg Bowl, but it’s always in good fun,” Buys said with a laugh. “We have always been competitive when it came to sporting events.”
While the Buys family has always thrown their hearts into whatever they pursued, serving others in the community or whenever the opportunity arose was always stressed throughout the household. When Buys was 13, her family became involved in the Clean Water program to help bring clean water to people and families that were surrounded by contaminated water wells. The impact on the lives of the people that they helped stayed with Buys, and she embraced the program even more seeing the gratitude and appreciation that people felt for their assistance.
“It truly is a blessing for us to be given the opportunity to serve others and help bring clean water to people that were not fortunate enough to have that,” Buys said. “It touched my heart at a really young age, and my family and I have just become even more passionate about this program. You don’t really realize how many people die each day because of contaminated water, and when you see their faces light up when they get clean water, that just really touches your heart.”
The Buys family knew that there was a great purpose to this work because around 5,400 people die each day from water from contaminated wells, but the further impact of the program was impressed upon Buys when they received a letter from a 16-year-old girl who thanked the family for allowing her to receive a good education. She had to put her studies on hold while both of her parents went to work each day, and it became her job to walk many miles each day to bring back clean water to the family. Due to the Clean Water Program, she was able to continue her education and expressed her gratitude to the Buys family. So, when it came time to declare her platform for the Miss Mississippi pageant, Buys already knew what her platform would be—an issue which her family had supported for many years, and one which Buys passionately supports and campaigns for.
“Miss Buys, like two of my girls, participated in the Magnolia Princess program, and I think her success shows the value of that program in educating young women about what it means to represent your hometown and your state,” Lieutenant Governor Tate Reeves said. “There is no doubt Miss Buys will make Mississippi proud on the national stage. Her passion for ensuring communities can access clean water—a complex issue that we face here in the United States as well as around the world—gives her a unique edge on the competition. It demonstrates her insight into challenges faced by some individuals who are often overlooked and shows her heart.”
Mayor Flaggs credits much of Buys’ success from the devotion and sense of civic service which has always been such a major part of her family as she was growing up in this Riverside city. With her strong faith, passion, and dedication to work and service to the community, Buys and her family were always helping out others whenever they could. Flaggs considers Buys to be an exceptional role model for the youth of Vicksburg and Mississippi. It is that loving kindness and sense of stewardship that will bring success and a sense of purpose to whatever Buys pursues, whether it is in bringing home the crown of Miss America to her home state or achieving her dream of being a sports anchor.
To say Buys’ calendar is full for the next few months is a huge understatement. Her days will be filled with practicing talent to perfect her performance, traveling to speaking engagements, and working to be the best that she can be to represent the state that she loves so dearly and the many friends that she has made through the program throughout the years. But Buys embraces the hard work even though she still feels like she is living in a dream or fantasy.
“It is kind of surreal to finally achieve this goal that I have worked for so long,” Buys said. “Before they announced the winner, I said a prayer, and felt this wonderful sense of peace all over. It was so amazing to hear my name called as the winner, and it just makes it even more special to be crowned Miss Mississippi in the 60th anniversary of the pageant. I feel so blessed to represent the wonderful people and this state that I dearly love and call home.”