Shannon's Alivia Roberts achieves lifelong dream, heads to Miss America

·5 min read

Aug. 4—TUPELO — Alivia Roberts may hail from a small town, but she's always had big dreams.

The native of Shannon graduated as Shannon High School's valedictorian in 2014. She then made her way to Mississippi State University that fall.

Prior to her freshman year, however, she began her journey with the Miss America Organization as a contestant in the Miss Mississippi pageant.

Now, Roberts is heading to Miss America after seven years of competing in the organization — this time as Miss Washington, D.C.

To the small-town girl and longtime pageant competitor, the opportunity to compete for the title of Miss America is a dream come true.

"Coming from a small town, you don't always see people who look like you in these positions in D.C. or in Miss America," she said.

A dream come true

Roberts first competed for the title of Miss Mississippi in 2014. She competed again in 2015. Then 2016, and again in 2017.

She never won the Magnolia State's title, but after relocating to Washington, D.C., she opted to try for the title there.

Roberts began competing for the title of Miss Washington, D.C. in 2019. The pandemic canceled 2020's competition, but she returned in both 2021 and again this year.

Twice, Roberts was named runner-up. In June, after years of dedication, Roberts finally earned her crown.

"When I heard my name, I was in disbelief and shocked," she said. "I had no idea this would be the year when I was crowned because I had gotten so close the past years."

She currently serves as an aide to Vice President Kamala Harris, but in her spare time, Roberts continues her passion of ballet, which she'll take to the Miss America stage for the talent category.

Although Roberts lives in the U.S. capital, her roots in her home state run deep.

"I am originally from Shannon, Mississippi, and am a very proud former resident of Mississippi," Roberts said.

For the seasoned pageant competitor, Roberts' new title is a dream come true.

"It was very surreal to have this dream since I was 4 years old come alive," she said. "All of those emotions from years of ballet training and competing in Miss Mississippi's Outstanding Teen, Miss Mississippi and Miss Washington, D.C. had come to life."

A 'village of instructors'

As a child, Roberts was just as active as she is now. She developed a love for soccer while also juggling a passion for ballet. But in the fourth grade, scheduling conflicts prompted her mom to push her to choose one or the other.

"I chose soccer," she said. "My mom said, 'What will you do for your talent at Miss America?,' and I told her I would do soccer tricks."

After taking some time to rethink her choice, Roberts changed her mind and pursued ballet instead.

Roberts attributes her many successes in life to her upbringing in Shannon, especially those that poured into her throughout adolescence.

"I thank my village and instructors in Shannon who invested in me," she said. "They play and continue to play a large part in who I am."

The White House employee grew up as a devoted 4H member which she said helped her gain vital speaking skills and initial exposure to Washington, D.C. while traveling to the capital to receive a Congressional Gold Medal.

"When I came to D.C. to receive the medal, I stood on the steps of the Capitol, called my parents and said, 'I think I found myself,'" she said. "I have done everything in my power to make that happen."

Besides her 4H involvement, one of the most influential parts of Roberts' time in Mississippi came from church. A member of White Hill Missionary Baptist Church in Tupelo, Roberts credits pastor Jeffrey Daniel for keeping her motivated.

"Anytime I was discouraged, he would pep me up and pray with me," Roberts said.

Attaining the 'unattainable'

Using scholarships she earned during her time in the Miss America Organization, the Mississippi-turned-D.C. queen earned her master's degree from George Washington University.

From now until the Miss America Pageant, Roberts' goal is to delve into the community service aspect of her role by promoting her Social Impact Initiative, DREAM.

"Right now, I'm really working hard to build relationships and partnerships across the District to promote DREAM which is a mentorship program that stands for Determination Responsibility Excellence Accomplishment and Motivation," Roberts said.

Throughout her year, Roberts' primary aim is to make herself as accessible as possible to those that she serves.

"I'm also making sure the community knows who I am," she said. "I want people in the community to know I'm accessible and reachable and here to serve them."

For the little girls in Shannon, Mississippi who aspire to reach their lofty goals, Roberts has one piece of advice she has strived to live by:

"I received a piece of advice from my cousin Dr. David Beckley — 'Don't let anyone tell you what you can or can't do because you're from Shannon, Mississippi,'" she said. "That advice continues to motivate me."

That same small community, she said, is what made her who she is.

"I'm a small-town girl living big life dreams in Washington, D.C.," she said. "It's not anything I thought was attainable growing up, but because of my community, it's something that absolutely was."

BROOKE BULLOCK BURLESON is a digital producer for the Daily Journal. Contact her at brooke.burleson@djournal.com.