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Visit www.missuniverse.com/missusa for more information about the Miss USA pageant.

University co-ed crowned Miss Tennessee USA
U of M junior Ashley Durham was crowned Miss Tennessee USA in October. Photo courtesy of Clarksville Montgomery County Convention Center and Visitors Bureau.
U of M junior Ashley Durham was crowned Miss Tennessee USA in October. Photo courtesy of Clarksville Montgomery County Convention Center and Visitors Bureau.
Ashley Durham is hoping a recent walk down the runway will lead to bigger journeys around the world.

Durham, a journalism major at the University of Memphis, was crowned Miss Tennessee USA 2011 in a pageant in Clarksville, Tenn., in October. The junior will represent the state in the Miss USA pageant in Las Vegas this spring with a chance to move on to the Miss Universe competition.

“This really opens doors for me,” said Durham, a native of Adamsville, Tenn. “Pageants can do so much for you. They improve your interview skills and your people skills — things that can be used in everyday life.”

While the U of M has never had a Miss USA before, two co-eds have been named Miss America: Barbara Jo Walker Hummel (BS ’48) in 1947 and Kellye Cash in 1987. And Claire Ford (BA '81), who went on to star in an episode of Fantasy Island, was crowned Miss Black America in 1977.

Durham said preparing for a pageant of this magnitude is no easy task and she plans to take the spring semester off to prepare.

“I have interview coaches and a personal trainer to help me get ready,” she said.

She is also hoping to put to bed the myth that beauty pageants are filled with shallow individuals.

“The stereotype that goes along with pageants is so hard to overcome,” she said. “There is so much self character that goes into this, so much hard work.”

Durham carries a 3.75 grade point average and is a member of Alpha Gamma Delta sorority. She is also active in campus charity events, including Up ‘til Dawn, a fundraiser for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Durham also won the Miss Teen Tennessee USA pageant in 2005 for the 2006 year. She is the daughter of Harvey and Charlotte Durham of Adamsville, which is about two hours east of Memphis near Selmer, Tenn.

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Last Updated: 1/23/12