VICKSBURG, Miss. — Miss Mississippi Jasmine Murray's platform isn't just something to promote as a beauty queen and pageant winner, it's something she wants to promote nationwide and hopefully work with as a career.
The 22-year-old Mississippi State student from Columbus said she would like to see her platform, "13 Going On 30: Teaching Young Girls To Embrace Their Age," be adopted by the Boys and Girls Club of America, and used on a national level.
Named after the movie "13 Going On 30," the platform aims at encouraging teens to find mentors and role models who can help them make decisions that will keep them out of trouble. Murray said she was inspired by friends who became teenage mothers when they were younger and had to put their dreams, and ultimately their childhood on hold. In Murray's opinion, growing up too fast can cause teenage pregnancy, eating disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, and dropping out of school.
Through her motivational camps and speaking engagements, Murray has reached out to hundreds of young women on the subjects of peer pressure, bullying, and making good choices. In addition to churches and civic organizations, Murray has promoted her platform at Boys and Girls Club camps, and said she'd like to see that message be one that's passed along all over the state and ultimately, the nation.
"They've been very, very welcoming to me and my platform, and I'd like to see them adopt '13 Going On 30' as a national platform, and I hope to do that at the end of my reign," she said.
A broadcast communications major, Murray said she knows she wants to continue to chase that dream long after Miss Mississippi and Miss America are past. For the moment, though, she's reveling in being able to wear the crown that represents the state she's so proud to call home.
Murray is best known for her run in season eight of American Idol. She was a Top 13 finalist at age 16, as a junior at Mississippi School of the Arts in Brookhaven. During that time, the whole state, and a large part of the south, rallied behind her and she was a regional favorite.
Now she's back in that position, and she handles it with grace and humility.
"I'm so grateful for the opportunity to represent my entire state. I have been so fortunate to kind of move around a little bit over the time that I've had in school, to go to the School of the Arts, Mississippi State, Columbus High School, and to develop relationships with people all over the state," she said. "I look forward to continuing to build those relationships and travel all over the state to serve the people of Mississippi."
Murray said her family, which includes three sisters and a brother, is more excited about her victory than she is, if it's possible. She said she was up Saturday night until 3 a.m., but her mother said she stayed up until 5 a.m. One sister, Angela, was a contestant in Miss Mississippi several years ago, and has helped her through the years. At some point, she's going to have to let them all try on the crown, Murray said.
"Oh my goodness, just to have their support and their love and their friendship, they've supported me on this journey through and through, and I know I wouldn't be here without them," she said.
One particular lesson she learned from her sister, Murray said, was that you have to be prepared in so many ways for the pageant, down to labeling clothing and hours and hours of packing. More importantly, Angela taught her, is what's on the inside.
"It's also about making sure your heart is in the right place. You have to understand that at the end of the day this is not about just winning a title. What are you going to do once you win the title? How are you going to impact people's lives? How are you going to give back?" Murray said.
Ultimately her inspiration and her strength have come from her faith, Murray said.
"I'm just so thankful every day that I have a relationship with Jesus, and I know that I'm not perfect by any means, and I strive to make that relationship better on a daily basis," she said. "It's very important to pursue that relationship with God. It's just like a relationship with a person, you have to talk to Him on a daily basis, you have to thank Him, you have to acknowledge Him, so I try to acknowledge Him in everything I do. I know that I'm only here because of Him and I thank Him for every door He's opened for me, even to let me live, to let me be here today."
Music, and the joy it brings, is another source of deep inspiration for Murray. It's a way of communicating that everyone understands, she said.
"You can take a song and it can be inspirational or really entertaining, and you can relate to someone and make them feel like they're the only person in the room because they feel like you understand them when you're singing that song," she said. "I think that's beautiful, music is a language of itself, and it's a beautiful language that transcends everything, so I love that I can do that through songs and through music and I want to continue to do that."
Of course the next big goal is the Miss America Pageant, which takes place Sept. 14, 2014. Murray, who has been on the national stage on American Idol, said the national pageant is a dream come true.
"I cannot believe it. I cannot believe it. It is truly a dream. I know that Miss America is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and there aren't very many people that get it," she said. "I'm extremely privileged to be in this position today and I am just thanking God and giving Him all the glory for this opportunity. I hope that once I get there I can be the best Miss Mississippi and the best Jasmine that I can be, that I am."
Information from: The Clarion-Ledger, http://www.clarionledger.com