Thirty-nine women are competing this week for the state title and crown in the 2021 Miss Alabama Pageant, and two have strong local ties.
Among the contestants, two Sylacauga natives — Caitlyn McTier and Ibby Dickson — are competing for the crown. The pandemic prevented the Miss Alabama competition from being held in 2020, but the show will go on this year at the Alabama Theatre in Birmingham, where the winner will be crowned Saturday.
McTier, a recent graduate of the University of Alabama, found her niche early in life. Beginning pageantry at the age of 4, she started her journey competing in pageants local to both the Sylacauga and Talladega County areas.
“Being raised in Sylacauga, I’m a big small-town girl. My mom used to work backstage at Miss Alabama pageants, so I grew up having Miss Alabama as a personal role model,” McTier said.
This year marks McTier’s fourth year going into the Miss Alabama pageant. She will be competing as Miss Hoover for the title of Miss Alabama.
“Between competing in Petite Miss Sylacauga and Preteen Miss Talladega County, these were the moments that really helped shape me and help me be successful at this level in my 20s," she said. "It became a part of who I am.”
McTier also has a passion for community service. She said she started serving her community in Talladega County by working with Alabama Childhood Food Solutions throughout middle school and high school. Once she got to college, she shifted to the direction of ending college poverty — specifically food insecurity and homelessness.
McTier defined her personal meaning of the Miss Alabama organization with one word: representation.
“Growing up, there was only one African-American Miss Alabama, and now there have been two in the competition’s history,” McTier said. “As we’re tracking the progress of Miss America, we see how Miss Alabama has been pivotal in the changes the system has made. As someone that I consider a modern woman, I want to be a part of that equation to continue pushing not only our state but our nation forward to guarantee inclusivity of all women.”
After her pageant career, McTier plans to pursue a career in news media. Soon, she will be embarking on a new journey of working in the sports communication field in New York.
Dickson is a 20-year-old student at the University of Alabama with a focus in news media and political science. She will be competing as Miss Sylacauga for the title of Miss Alabama.
“I’ve grown up in Sylacauga my entire life. I have grown up with a strong community service aspect and have always been passionate about serving others around me,” Dickson said. "This is a large reason I wanted to get involved with the Miss Alabama organization."
Aside from her passion for pageantry, Dickson detailed her passion for serving her community.
“My mom is the CEO of a nonprofit organization in Sylacauga, and strived to teach me about the importance of community service and giving back to our community,” Dickson said.
Dickson began her pageant career at the age of 14 through Miss Sylacauga’s Outstanding Teen Program. When older girls in the program reached out to her, she was hesitant but decided to give pageantry a try.
“Miss Alabama is the No. 1 supplier of scholarships for young women, and that was a big drive in my involvement initially. However, the Miss Alabama organization has been essential to shaping my personal development, as well as my involvement within my community,” Dickson said.
To Dickson, Miss Alabama means an abundance of opportunity.
“Ever since I’ve gotten involved in the Miss Alabama organization, it has continuously opened new doors for me to serve in surrounding communities, connect with new people and be a part of social impact initiatives,” Dickson said.
After her competition days in Miss Alabama come to a close, Dickson hopes to attend law school and eventually work in state politics, working in Washington D.C., or even running for office.