Charity Lockridge was recently crowned as Miss Hinds Community College and will represent the college in the Miss Mississippi Pageant this summer. As a photographer in the Public Relations department, I covered the pageant and was blown away by her performance in the talent portion of the competition. I believe she will do a wonderful job representing the college this year. I had the privilege of sitting down with Charity to have a conversation about her goals, platform and passions. Below is a portion of our conversation. The photos are from the pageant, held Nov. 16, 2017.
Q: Tell me about yourself. You're from Vicksburg?
A: I grew up in Vicksburg, playing softball and soccer. I was a Gator Girl (dance team member) in high school, as well as the mascot. I was very involved with people around me. I've always liked being engaged in things. I was also in many clubs including Key Club and the Robotics Team.
Q: How did you choose Alive with Autism (A.W.A), as your platform for the Miss Hinds pageant?
A: AWA originated in December 2016. I already knew I wanted to start a platform with autism and it gives me the chance to give back to my community in particular. I gather donated school supplies to give to special needs children. I know how it is to have a child with a disability. Going out and buying school supplies is sometimes the last thing on your mind. It’s expensive. Having to pay for medical expenses can take a toll on the parents. I also provide canvases and paint and give the kids free will to do whatever they want. I give them help if they need it. I want to let them know they're special, but to not let anyone tell them they aren't normal. What is the definition of normal? A lot of them may step out of the special education classroom and feel they aren't normal, and that's not fair.
Q: Did your passion for supporting children with special needs come from a personal experience?
A: My brother, Christopher, is 12 years old and was diagnosed with autism when he turned four. He has had seizures since he was two years old. I'm very protective of him. I've had classmates of my own who called my brother retarded and slow. He didn’t ask to come in this world having seizures. If I could pray for one thing it would be for his healing. I knew there were a lot more children out there.
Q: I think I speak for most of the audience when I say your performance in the talent competition was breathtaking. It definitely gave me goose bumps. What role has singing played in your life?
A: I started singing at the age of four. I started to lead a lot of the songs in church. Praise and worship is my most favorite genre. I love giving praise to God. It would be hard for me to sing a Taylor Swift song, for example, when it comes to changing the genre. Praise and Worship or Gospel are what I love to sing. The song "Via Dolorosa," that was challenge. It was not easy to learn. A lot of people tell me I did well. I love that song. My choir teacher had been preparing my voice. He told me, 'I know you can sing this song, you will blow it off the roof. But up there on stage I want it to be you and God. Go into worship mode.' I had my choreography but I put myself in the state of mind of a pedestrian on the "Via Dolorosa" watching Christ walk with a cross on his back.
Q: I know you have another passion, which is art. Can you tell me about your experience studying art at Hinds?
A: In high school I got introduced to ceramics and I've done it for five years now. I fell in love with ceramics. I know this is what I want to do for the rest of my life. Coming to Hinds had to be the best decision I've ever made. The teachers really work with you and they are sincere. My field of study is art, of course. My teachers at Hinds introduced me to things I never knew about. I won first place in the ceramics division of the art show last year, as a freshman. I was very excited. It gave me a boost of confidence, showed me what I was capable of.
Q: What do you love about ceramics?
A: I'm a hands-on person. I love having my hands glued to things, shaping things. I love art. With clay, the horizons I explored that I could do with this one piece of dirt blew my mind. I can put my own touch to it, mold it to any form I would like. It’s a stress reliever. Sitting there, concentrating, not thinking of anything else but the clay. It helped me out a lot. I fell in love, especially when I got to Hinds.
Q: What are your plans after you graduate from Hinds?
A: After I leave Hinds I plan on attending Mississippi State University. I will study ceramics. I plan on opening my own studio and to make it available to anyone. All ages and abilities would be welcome.
Q: What was the experience of being crowned as Miss Hinds like?
A: I give all the glory to God. It’s been a lot of fun and I’ve met a lot of new people. It blows my mind.
Q: The blue evening gown you wore to Miss Hinds was gorgeous. Who designed it?
A: Everyone was asking me about my dress. Ken White designed it, a former Hinds student. I am a firm believer of supporting where you come from. I gave him free reign to design my dress. Everybody fell in love with my dress. He’s designing my dress for Miss Mississippi. He's done several dresses for pageants and homecomings but this is a big deal for him because his dress is about to be across the Miss Mississippi stage. I love seeing my peers succeed and do great things, and I’m excited for both of us. It's a joint effort.
Q: The Miss Mississippi Pageant is only a few months away. What are your preparations looking like?
A: As I’m preparing for Miss Mississippi, I am most focused on my body. I love interviews, and my speaking skills have enhanced, but I want to work further on that. I am working with (Hinds choir director) Mr. Andrew Head to strengthen my voice. To sing even better for Miss Mississippi. As far as swimwear, I've had a lot of insecurities with my body. I’m going to be working out Monday-Friday every week. Pushing it. My ultimate goal is Miss America. But I was so content after I won Miss Hinds. This is all I ever wanted to win to represent a school or city. It’s just awesome.