Mariah Clayton, 24, from Baton Rouge, Louisiana is an HBCU (Historically Black College/University) graduate from Southern University. Never did she think that in 2020 she would be competing for the crown of Miss United States of America. Yet, I had the chance to interview Miss Mariah Clayton on her journey to the crown.

Why did you get into pageantry?

It’s actually a funny story. Growing up I was such a tomboy, plus an athlete. I played volleyball, ran track, and was just into sports. I actually have an older sister and she was very much into the pageant world. She was a cheerleader, a girly girl. We were like complete opposites! When I graduated high school, she was competing for a pageant and was like, “Mariah, I really think you should compete in this pageant with me.”

I would never want to compete like that. It’s just never been my thing. She’s like, “Well,  you can compete in the teen division, and then if I win and you win, we can be ‘Sister Queens’!” And I’m like, “We’re already sisters!” 

Since being in the pageant world Mariah has had the chance to develop a friendship with the current Miss USA, Cheslie Kryst, who she actually had the opportunity to see be crowned. Now she gets to enjoy the same excitement during her reign. 

Being Miss Louisiana USA is a huge deal! How does it feel?

Honestly, it just feels so unreal! It’s crazy because I envisioned that moment in my head so many times leading up to the pageant. There would be moments where I would start daydreaming about that moment and just start crying. Like, it was such a vivid vision in my mind; I wanted it so badly. So, when I got to that moment I was standing there with that other incredibly amazing woman, and I just started praying. I was like, “Lord, you know whoever you want to give this crown to. I pray that they use it for Your glory, plus be able to represent the state and the title with the utmost respect.” You know, I just sat there and I prayed in that moment. Then when he {the announcer} called my name, I literally blacked out! Like, I couldn’t remember what had happened after that. I started crying uncontrollably. I felt so grateful to feel like all my hard work had paid off. 

photo by Tray Cooper 

What does Mariah do in her spare time? And who’s on your playlist right now? 

To be honest, in my free time I love watching YouTube DIY videos. I actually have my own YouTube channel. I also binge watch series’ on Netflix such as: All American and On My Block. I’m actually still living at home with my family. Being one of eight siblings – and actually there’s four younger siblings still in the house- we have game night, movie night and we work out together. Now, my playlist is very eclectic. Ariana Grande is my idol! Her catalog stays on repeat, no skips. Dua Lipa’s new album is amazing! Kiana Lede is the next queen of R&B. Her voice is amazing! I found her on Youtube doing “Soul Food Sessions.”

Johnathan McReynolds, he’s a gospel artist with a voice from heaven. His runs and rifts are just crazy. Megan Thee Stallion is a good bop, especially her “Savage Remix” with Beyoncé. Music takes me to my peaceful place. I love finding new artists.

When I was little I wanted to be a singer and I can sing lowkey. But I’m not about to drop an album, but maybe one a single. I would much rather be a model or actress. The entertainment industry was calling my name. I used theatre to help me with my self-esteem. I didn’t think I was cute, but being able to be someone else helped me open up. My two best friends in my head are Zendaya and Yara Shahidi, if I ever had a chance to meet them. 

photo by Tray Cooper

What past Miss USA would you like to have a conversation with?

If I could have a conversation with a past Queen it would have to be Carole Anne-Marie Gist. I would genuinely love to sit and just get all I can from her because I know there was some racism and obstacles she had to face. I would really want to ask her about the pageant world today and her opinion on how the industry has changed so much. I think that would be a really cool meeting of the minds to have. 

What a time to be alive! Top Queens around the world sport a darker skin tone. Miss Universe Zozibini Tunzi, Miss America Nia Franklin and Miss Teen USA Kaliegh Garris are all of African descent and proud of it!. These young women are showing the world that natural hair and darker skin tones are beautiful.

Mariah is proud to be part of this new chapter in beauty queens and we are even more proud to watch her strut her stuff when she vies for the title of Miss United States of America. We wish her the best of luck!



Featured Image by Augusta Sagnelli