Madison’s Bassett named state’s Distinguished Young Woman

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Madison County’s 2021 Distinguished Young Woman Ashley Grace “Gracie” Bassett claimed the overall state title during Sunday’s 2021 Distinguished Young Women of Mississippi finals, which were live-streamed from Evangel Temple Church.

In addition to the Distinguished Young Woman medallion, Bassett also received a $5,000 cash scholarship, as well as the overall award for talent. She performed on piano “Whitewater Chopped Sticks” by Calvin Jones. Bassett, who is homeschooled, plans to attend Mississippi College, followed by medical school. She is the daughter of William and Barbie Bassett.

First-alternate was Starkville’s 2021 DYW Makenzie Christine Stone. Stone, who attends Starkville High School, plans to pursue a career in dermatology at Vanderbilt University. She is the daughter of Brenda Stone and Glynn Stone.

Second-alternate was Lamar County’s 2021 DYW Rachael Elizabeth Barbieri, who also received the overall award for fitness. Barbieri, who attends Presbyterian Christian School, plans to pursue a career in chemical engineering at the University of Mississippi. She is the daughter of Rocco and Corinne Barbieri.

Third-alternate was West Jackson County’s 2021 DYW Evan Cain, who also received the overall award for scholastics. Cain, who attends Ocean Springs High School, plans to pursue a career in pediatric cardiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She is the daughter of Ted and Julie Cain.

Rounding out the competition’s Top 8 finalists were: West Lauderdale County’s 2021 DYW Caroline Prewitt, the daughter of Drs. Kendrick and Lindsey Prewitt; Petal’s 2021 DYW Loren Wade, who received the “Be Your Best Self” Award. She is the daughter of Jason and Kaylee Wade; George County’s 2021 DYW Laney Kate Hulbert, the daughter of Philip and Holly Hulbert; and Pascagoula’s 2021 DYW Sydney Hanson, the daughter of Lonnie and Maureen Hanson.

The 2021 DYW of Mississippi finals were streamed online over two nights, Saturday and Sunday — a first for the state program. Annual Program Chairman Hampton Thames attributed the cancellation of July’s scheduled state finals to Mississippi’s rising COVID-19 numbers in early summer.

Saturday’s preliminary night featured pre-recorded footage, while the final night streamed live. Both broadcasts were made possible by Meridian Community College.

Twenty-five contestants vied for the overall state title. Each DYM participant is evaluated in five categories: scholastics (25 percent), interview (25 percent), talent (20 percent), fitness (15 percent) and self-expression (15 percent).

For the virtual program, the participants’ segments for fitness, talent and self-expression were filmed at Evangel Temple over two weekends in late August. Judges' interviews were scheduled over two days and conducted via Zoom. Scholastics were evaluated by a separate judge.

The preliminary question asked during the self-expression segment of the program was provided to each contestant via text one hour prior to their arrival at Evangel Temple Church on their day of filming.

All necessary safety precautions were followed to protect the contestants and volunteers, Thames said. Each contestant in each group was assigned a separate dressing room, which was thoroughly cleaned in between groups.

State program officials were committed to making the virtual program to be as close to a live performance as possible, including the opening number.

“We kept the same opening number that was designed by our choreographer for the live performance and had different girls to do different parts of it,” the annual program chairman said.

Each contestant was allowed 10 minutes to get acclimated to the stage before their individual performance. While state program judges viewed the entire three-minute fitness routine filmed for each group, an edited version was presented during Saturday’s pre-recorded virtual broadcast.

Instead of 10 finalists, this year’s program had eight. Thames noted that due to the expense of the virtual production, state program officials wanted to make sure the 2021 DYW of Mississippi’s scholarship funds — which totaled $25,400 — would not be affected.  

Following the state finals' live stream, the 2021 Distinguished Young Woman of Mississippi Gracie Bassett did a Facebook and Instagram live with 2020 Distinguished Young Woman of Mississippi’s Becky Williams. Bassett will go on to compete at nationals, which will be held in June 2021 in Mobile, Ala. 


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