Miss New Mexico readies for trip to Atlantic City: Jessica Burson to compete in Miss America Pageant
Miss New Mexico Jessica Burson, of Roswell, signs autographs and visits with young fans on Saturday at the UFO Festival on Main Street. Burson served as grand marshal of the UFO Festival Parade. (Randal Seyler Photo)
Jessica Burson says she is on a journey — and right now, that journey is taking her to Atlantic City.
Burson, who won the Miss New Mexico Pageant on June 28 in Ruidoso, was back home in Roswell for the UFO Festival, where she was serving as grand marshal for the UFO Festival Parade.
Her journey started as Miss Roswell in February, and now as Miss New Mexico, Burson is going to be one of 50 young women vying for the title of Miss America in September in New Jersey.
“I would like to thank God for allowing me to have this incredible opportunity,” Burson said Wednesday. “I also want to thank the community of Roswell, the support and love I have felt have been awesome.”
Burson, 20, is the daughter of Cody and Cheri Burson and she is a native of Roswell. She graduated from Goddard High School in 2012, where she was active in FFA and was a cheerleader.
Burson said her brother Cole is her biggest cheerleader. “He is just wonderful, he is always right there for me.”
She was selected to be Miss Roswell in February, but there was no pageant. The Miss New Mexico Pageant was her first experience in a pageant, and she said there wasn’t a lot of difference between being in a pageant and her previous area of expertise — showing livestock.
“Well, it was a little different,” she said, laughing. “But it takes the [auth] same sort of attitude.”
“I was raised in 4-H and FFA couldn’t do as well as I have done without what I learned in FFA,” Burson said. “Showing livestock and participating in the FFA taught me morals and values.”
The amazing thing about the Miss New Mexico Pageant was how wonderful all the other young women in the pageant were to work with, Burson said.
“They were wonderful, it was like one big family. It is like they say, I truly have made friends for life. I feel like I have a bunch of sisters, now.”
Besides winning the title of Miss New Mexico, Burson also won the pageant’s high academic scholarship and she won the interview trophy. Altogether, Burson won about $10,000 in scholarship money from the Miss New Mexico Pageant.
“It was truly a remarkable experience, I really feel as though I have been blessed,” she said.
For the time being, Burson will continue studying at Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell as she prepares for her competition in the Miss American Pageant.
“I will have a new talent; tomorrow, I am taking my first singing lesson,” Burson said on July 2. In the Miss New Mexico Pageant, Burson’s talent was jazz dancing.
“I have an old hip injury, and I wanted to have a talent that I don’t have to worry about being injured. Besides, I will be dancing every day in high heels during the Miss America Pageant,” she said.
A woman may compete at the state level more than once, but may only compete in the national Miss America competition one time, according to the official Miss America Pageant website.
“Thousands of women participate each year in the local and state events, culminating in the selection of 53 national finalists who vie for the Miss America title,” according to the website.
“It really hit me when I Googled myself and saw that I was on the Miss America website,” Burson said. “Up to that point, it was all kind of unreal!”
A big part of being Miss America is charity work and helping children, which is Burson’s passion.
She has been all over southeast New Mexico in her first few days as Miss New Mexico, and a tour of the state with Gov. Susana Martinez was planned for the second week of her reign.
The Miss New Mexico Pageant was not broadcast on television, but as soon as the after party was over, Burson and her mother had to drive to Albuquerque so she could be on the Sunday morning local news programs.
“Luckily, my mom was with me; I got to sleep on the way up there.” The Miss New Mexico Pageant didn’t end until nearly midnight, she said.
Each new Miss America becomes the goodwill ambassador for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, speaking on behalf of kids treated at children’s hospitals and raising awareness around the country.
“The Miss America Organization has partnered with Children’s Miracle Network to raise funds and awareness for children’s hospitals throughout the United States,” she said.
“Miss America travels about 100,000 miles a month,” Burson said, which would mean if she wins in September, her college education may be put on hold while she serves as Miss America.
As Miss New Mexico, Burson will also be busy traveling the state and promoting the Healthy Kids New Mexico program. She was already involved in the Healthy Kids Chaves County program before becoming Miss New Mexico, and she intends to continue to build on her platform, “Healthy Bodies, Happy Hearts.”
Healthy Kids New Mexico is a project of the New Mexico Department of Health and state and local partners that creates healthy environments and programs to give kids what they need to play well, eat well, learn well, and live healthy and full lives, according the website, nmhealth.org.
“I cannot wait to work towards my goal of becoming Miss America and being a voice for children. ‘Healthy Bodies, Happy Hearts’ will be able to touch lives across the state as I travel and advocate for healthy lifestyles,” Burson said.
On Sept. 2, she heads to Atlantic City to participate in the Miss America Pageant, which culminates in the final evening’s competition and crowning on Sept. 14. The pageant will be aired on the ABC network.
“I absolutely love New Mexico and I am honored to represent the ‘Land of Enchantment,” she said. “I am so grateful to be able to represent my home in the Miss America Pageant.”
Regardless of whether or not she is named Miss America in September, Burson says she is blessed to be on this journey, and she feels God has a plan for her and her life.
“Whatever happens, I feel I have more than fulfilled my goals, just being Miss Roswell and then to be Miss New Mexico, that is so wonderful,” she said. “And now I will get to work with Healthy Kids all across the state. I just couldn’t ask for more.”