This article appeared in the October 25, 2018 edition of the Belmont Banner-News.
Former Miss Mount Holly Allison Farris reaches the Miss America stage
If you watched the recent Miss America pageant on TV, you may have noticed a familiar face.
Right there on the screen was Allison Farris, who reigned as Miss Mount Holly in 2017. So how did someone with ties to Mount Holly make it to the Miss America stage wearing the Miss District of Columbia sash?
It was a multi-year journey in pageantry that Farris admits she thought would never happen.
“Walking down the red carpet at Miss America was a moment I had worked toward for five years,” said Farris, who added getting to the iconic pageant wasn’t easy. “Along the way, there were many people who believed I could make it and their support and encouragement played a big role in me getting there.”
Being Miss Mount Holly in 2017 was a pivotal time. That year at Miss North Carolina, she was a strong contender and won the talent award, but had to settle for a runner-up finish. In that moment with her 24th birthday fast approaching, Farris’ dream of becoming Miss America had ended. She would soon be too old to compete again.
Then, the Miss America age requirement increased to 25 years old, and Farris was back in the game. When her job with Microsoft transferred her from Charlotte to the nation’s capital, she decided to give it one more shot. In June, she won the 2018 Miss District of Columbia crown, thus securing her spot in the Miss America competition.
On the night of September 9 in front of an audience of thousands inside Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey and millions of people watching at home, Farris heard her name called as the third contestant in the pageant’s top 15. For Farris, it was a goal accomplished.
During the televised pageant, Farris participated in a round of on-stage questioning, which took the place of the swimsuit competition. The national pageant announced this summer that contestants would no longer be judged wearing swimsuits. Farris then made it into the pageant’s top 10 and competed in the evening gown and talent competitions. She performed Franz Liszt’s “Hungarian Rhapsody No. 6” on the piano, the same song she played to win Miss Mount Holly and the talent award at Miss North Carolina.
Unfortunately, Farris did not advance to the top five and saw Miss New York Nia Franklin win the crown. Franklin also has ties to North Carolina. She is a native of Winston-Salem and graduated from the University of North Carolina - School of the Arts before moving to New York to pursue a career in music.
“It was such an out-of-body experience to compete at Miss America, perform on that stage, and share my story about the importance of having women in the field of technology,” said Farris. “I am incredibly grateful, honored, humbled, and inspired by the experience.”
A native of Alabama, Farris grew up playing classical piano, and she says it was music that led her to a career in technology. She earned a Master of Science in Enterprise Integration from the University of Alabama and landed a job with Microsoft as a software developer. During her time as a beauty queen, Farris engaged girls in conversation about STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and sought to encourage them to take an interest in computer science and other STEM-related fields.
From Alabama to Charlotte to Washington, D.C., Farris competed in pageants to earn scholarship money and take advantage of showing off her talent and promoting her “Women in Technology” message. She has won some $30,000 from pageants to pay for college.
Delores Cox, who has served as executive director of the Miss Gastonia Scholarship Association for more than 30 years, got to know Farris during her time as Miss Mount Holly. In 2017, Cox assumed the directorship for the Miss Mount Holly pageant (in addition to producing the Miss Gastonia and Miss Gaston County pageants) and says it was a pleasure to have Farris as her first Mount Holly queen.
“You just knew that Allison had the potential to make it to Miss America,” said Cox. “She is talented, intelligent, beautiful, and driven to succeed. It was wonderful to see her on that Miss America stage, and everyone in Mount Holly is so proud of her.”
Cox added, “Her path to Miss America was a little out of the ordinary, but she got there, and she deserved to be there. Allison possesses all of the qualities you would expect to see in a Miss America.”
Farris said she still cherishes her time as Miss Mount Holly. She recalls fun public appearances like Springfest and the Christmas parade and being recognized by the city council. David Moore, who serves on the city council, made sure she was ‘out and about’ in Mount Holly during her year.
“I will always remember the people who helped to make my Miss America dream come true,” said Farris, who is back at work at Microsoft and continuing her duties as Miss District of Columbia. “This has been a journey that I have shared with so many people, and I believe that I am a better person because of my experiences along the way.”