East Georgia State College’s 2017 queen, Miley Keyton, is no stranger to the pageant scene. The daughter of Lyn and Pam Keyton, Miley began her career in pageants as a princess to the 2010 Miss East Georgia State College, Tifani Rowland.
“That was the first time I had ever heard anything about the Miss America system,” said Keyton.
That year, she was also chosen as Miss Georgia’s Outstanding Teen and Miss America’s Outstanding Teen’s princess.
“I really learned a lot about the Miss America system, and I decided I wanted to try and win a pageant like all the ‘big girls’ did when I was a princess,” she said.
She had done “glitz” pageants before, but never anything like this. When she entered the Miss Emanuel County’s Outstanding Teen pageant, she ended up winning.
“The princess program was a big part of my life and how I got involved in pageants,” she explained. “It helps younger girls get involved in the pageants and help them know more about it.”
Keyton is continuing this tradition by bringing two princesses with her to this week’s Miss Georgia competition. Her princesses are Carrie Lynn Johnson, seven-year-old daughter of Jamie and Tracie Johnson, and Alivia Fortner, eleven-year-old daughter of Miss EGSC 1997, Angie Robinson, Todd Robinson and the late Jeff Fortner.
Though Keyton has participated in several pageants over the last few years, this year will mark her first foray into the Miss-level competition.
“This has been a completely different ballgame,” said Keyton. “You’re still mature as a Teen, but Miss is a different level.”
Keyton won her first pageant at age 12, and said that her experiences as a Teen queen were more of a laid-back experience where people are getting to know her as person. “Miss is much more intense process,” she explained. “I’m much more mature than I was in the Teen program, and it is ten times more intense.”
“You have to go so much further into everything, know more and be more prepared as a Miss contestant,” she said.
Keyton’s favorite part of competition is talent. “It is a great way to show my passion,” she explained. “I’ve been dancing since I could walk and I love sharing that.”
“I’m happiest when I’m on stage dancing, and it shows when I dance. If I didn’t have dance, I don’t know what I’d have done with my life in the past 17 years,” she explained.
Her dancing is intrinsically entwined with her platform, Turning Disabilities into Abilities. Keyton is missing a disc between her fourth and fifth lumbar in her back, making her spine curve outward.
“They watched me every day because they feared that, when I grew taller, I’d stoop over or my spine would curve and I’d need surgery,” she explained. “It was pretty amazing for me. I was always told that I’d need surgery and I wouldn’t be able to dance or cheer, but it didn’t happen.”
Keyton also has Graves Disease and is living without her thyroid. “I know it has been a big part of limiting me with what I want to do,” she said.
In addition, she is deaf in one ear, making the fact that she dances even more incredible.
“Through my platform, I want to give back to people who have disabilities, both invisible like mine or visible,” she explained. “I want to help children with disabilities know that you can do anything if you set you mind to it.”
Her platform is very personal, as she lives it on a daily basis. She works closely with the Shriners Children Hospital to give back and has been a patient there since she was three. Keyton collects pop tabs that she returns to the hospital for them to recycle. She also works to help children know that they can be involved in any sport or physical activity that they want, living as an example that they can get out, be active and embrace the fact that they are different.
Keyton has joined girls from all over the state this week in Columbus, Ga. for the Miss Georgia Pageant. Her schedule is available online on EGSC’s Facebook page and cards and gifts can be sent to the addresses available there throughout the week.
“I want to be Miss Georgia because I feel that my story needs to be told more,” Keyton said. “I want to touch the hearts of even one or two people with disabilities and let them know that they can do everything they want to.”
The pageant will be streamed live on www.WRBL.com all week. We wish all our area queens luck in competition!