Niles woman to compete for USA National Miss title

Published 10:11 am Thursday, May 2, 2019

NILES — A Lake Michigan College student and Niles High School graduate will soon get the chance to compete at a national pageant and vie for the title of USA National Miss.

Payton Morris earned the title of USA National Miss Michigan 2019 during a statewide pageant competition March 10 in Novi, Michigan. Morris had to stand out from other candidates by excelling in multiple categories, including formal wear, interview, and runway.

Wearing her crown Wednesday morning, Morris reflected on the win.

“I thought it was really cool to be able to represent the whole state of Michigan right here in southwest Michigan,” Morris said. “I’m really excited to represent my city all the way in Florida.”

Morris, 21, will advance to a national pageant at Disney World in Florida during the second week of July. She will spend a week participating in pageant events.

Morris is the daughter of Jim and Denise Morris. Jim is the owner of the Paris Soda Co. in downtown Niles. Morris has often helped out at the restaurant in addition to her job as a nanny.

Morris is a student at Lake Michigan College, where she studies early child development. She hopes to one day open a preschool.

Morris got her start in pageantry in the Niles community. She participated in the Miss Apple Festival and Miss Niles scholarship pageants, where she earned a place among the top 5. In 2017, she was crowned Miss Lake Michigan.

Despite her affinity toward pageants, Morris said she grew up a tomboy and loved being in jeans and sneakers more than formal dresses.

“If you would have told me when I was little that I was going to do pageants, I would have given you the weirdest look,” Morris said.

Morris said she has always had a competitive spirit and this motivated her to take part in pageants.

“You get the chance to meet all the wonderful girls competing,” Morris said. “It’s not like TV makes pageants out to be. These are kind, genuine girls, so it is really cool to meet them.”

To prepare for the national competition, Morris has been visiting local businesses to help raise money to cover the cost of travel. She welcomed interested sponsors to reach out to her. People are also welcome to donate to the cause or reach out by visiting USA National Miss Michigan 2019 Facebook page or on Instagram at unm_Miss_Michigan. Donations can also be dropped off at Paris Soda Co.

As USA National Miss Michigan, Morris said she has used the title as a platform to advocate for several causes. She has taken part in an organization called Crown CARES, an acronym for Creating a Respectful Environment in Schools. Through the nonprofit, Morris visits local schools to talk about anti-bullying efforts.

“I believe you should also focus on spreading that kindness,” Morris said.

Her personal platform is advocating for foster children. Morris said she is trying to spread the word about Together We Rise. The organization has an effort called Sweet Cases which seeks to provide suitcases and hygiene kist to foster children.

“The Sweet Cases are for kids so that they don’t have to carry around their belongings in trash bags,” Morris said. “The few belongings they have, they have to carry around in a trash bag. I think they deserve more respect than that. The least we can do is give them a bag.”

The bags are also hand-decorated by those who volunteer for the organization.

In the weeks to come, Morris said practice would be essential, and she hopes to crack down on her speech, interview skills and walking in high heels.

Morris said she is looking forward to many aspects of the competition ahead.

“I’m just looking forward to this whole new experience,” Morris said. “I’m excited to bond with my court more as well, since we are spread across the state.”