Southern University alumni and former volleyball player Mariah Clayton is running for Miss USA! It was just a year ago that she was crowned Miss Louisiana USA 2020. Clayton is a Fall 2017 graduate from Zachary, Louisiana. She was a student athlete that majored in School Counseling during her time on The Bluff. Graduating at the top of her department, she knows how to get down to business.

Forced to compete in her first pageant at 18 years old, Clayton was not in her comfort zone. She was a tomboy growing up but fell in love with the world of pageantry and the impact she could make on her community. Having her platform as Miss Louisiana has allowed her to inspire and empower so many people, especially women. Clayton’s sister Shelby, who is a former SU and Saints cheerleader, is the person that inspires her every day to be a confident and self-loving woman. Without her, there would be no journey for Mariah to Miss USA.

The pageant contestant didn’t even dream of running for Miss USA. “I never thought this was ever achievable for me. Growing up, I did not have a lot of confidence in myself and was constantly seeking the approval of other people. Through pageantry, I was able to. If you would have told me 6 years ago that I would be competing for Miss USA, I wouldn’t have believed you.” Clayton feels that she has a really important story to share with the world. “My journey to Miss USA has truly been focused on being authentically myself and learning not to be defined by anyone else’s standards. For me, competing in pageants has been a self-discovering journey to embrace my natural beauty and uniqueness. Those features I once desired to hide or change about myself, are now the things that I unapologetically embrace and love the most! And I want to empower other women to not be held captive by society’s standards. It is such a liberating feeling to fully accept yourself!”

Dealing with a global pandemic after her reign, Clayton’s usual duties were taken from her. “I hit the ground running after I was crowned, and did at least 2 appearances a day! When the world shut down, it was almost like I lost a sense of purpose. How was I supposed to make an impact on the community when I couldn’t even be in the community? It was a big adjustment, but because of it, it caused me to think outside of the box. I was able to start my own organization and podcast called Girls in Real Life to continue spreading my message of self-love and women empowerment.”

Clayton is very optimistic about her future and has big goals that she wants to accomplish. “After my reign as Miss USA (fingers crossed), I hope to continue using my platform to inspire and empower the next generation of women. I would also love to be a commercial model, actress, and maybe even a motivational speaker! I’m ready for whatever the future holds for me.” We hope everything works out for this beauty and she gets everything she deserves. Be sure to SUpport and watch this lady Jag at the Miss USA competition on November 9 via the FYI channel.

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