Dillard Named 2021 Miss Jackson Hospitality

May 4, 2021

Jackson-native MaKayla Dillard has been named the 2021 Miss Jackson Hospitality, joining other 18-24-year-old young women from across the state to serve as their community’s “goodwill ambassador for tourism.”

The daughter of Tom Dillard III and Amy Hedgepeth Dillard, MaKayla is majoring in political science & broadcast communications at Hinds Community College.

Visit Jackson spoke with Dillard about her longtime goal of serving as Miss Hospitality and what she hopes to impart on her reign this year.

How did you learn of the Miss Hospitality program?

I was 14 when I discovered the opportunities the program offers – $100,000 worth of scholarships – and I was astounded at how many doors it opens for young women rooted in their education and kindness. Since then, a part of me has dreamed of being Jackson’s Miss Hospitality. My mother encouraged me to put myself out there and go for it.

What do you hope to get out of serving?

The experience, anticipation, love, support and everything that comes with this journey. I’m incredibly grateful and honored that I was chosen to represent Jackson. I’ve loved growing up here. Visiting the Eudora Welty House, Museum of Natural Science, LeFleur’s Bluff State Park, JXN Planetarium, eating good food at Babalu, The Pig & Pint, and the Mayflower Cafe, I have so many fond memories in the city.

Do you have a platform or cause you hope to bring awareness to while serving?

Growing up, I never raised my voice or rose to the occasion of braving the wide world beyond my house. My big brother, Garrett, did that. He’d test the waters first and ensure they were calm enough for me to swim in. Until one day, he made up his mind that the waters would never calm. The riptide in his mind pulled him under.

I want to help break the stigma that surrounds mental illness and mental health. Losing my brother to suicide hurt me in many incomprehensible ways, but what hurt the most was that he didn’t speak up. Garrett didn’t use his voice to seek help. I wish to be his voice and the voice of others like him.

Your problems are more significant in your mind, but they’ll never become smaller unless they’re spoken about.

What do you, philosophically speaking, think the role of Miss Hospitality brings to Jackson? Why is Jackson vital to you?

I believe that the role of Miss Hospitality is more than just a program or a title topped with a tiara. It gives modern youth the chance to be an ambassador of their hometown. From the halls of museums we walked through as wide-eyed children to the restaurants we dined at where the tableware was too big for our tiny hands, a program like Miss Hospitality connects us. It’s a connection to where we’ve been and where we’re headed, and it allows us to see the city we’ve grown up in through a new lens.

Miss Hospitality brings young adults, such as myself, and far more to appreciate the soul of Jackson, its booming businesses, hospitality, exquisite art, and rich history.

Barrett Named Little Miss Hospitality

Brandon-native Brecken Barrett, 7, has been chosen as Jackson’s Little Miss Hospitality to serve alongside Dillard.

Barrett is a first-grader at Rouse Elementary where she is an honor roll student. Her favorite subject is STEM and, when she grows up, she wants to be a pediatrician. Barrett enjoys dancing, gymnastics, and art. She is the daughter of Chris and Tori Rice and Ben and Amber Barrett.