A Stuttgart woman is claiming the Miss Arkansas crown

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A Stuttgart woman is claiming the Miss Arkansas crown

Cory Keller, 25, of Stuttgart, was crowned Miss Arkansas 2023 on Saturday night.

Outgoing Miss Arkansas, Ebony Mitchell, crowned her successor in front of a cheering crowd and a panel of dozens of candidates as purple confetti rained down at the Robinson Center in Little Rock.

Feeding the Future: Shared Solutions to End Hunger is Keller’s social impact initiative, which she will spend the year developing as Miss Arkansas.

Before taking the Miss Arkansas title, Keller won the Miss Metro pageant to qualify for the state pageant. She graduated from Arkansas State University.

Gallery: Miss Arkansas

“I’m just devastated,” Keller said after her Miss Arkansas win was announced. She said she looks forward to serving the state in her new role.

Keller was one of 15 finalists, narrowed down to five semi-finalists, who were named at the start of Saturday night’s final competition. The 15 finalists participated in personal interviews with the judges, answered questions on stage and competed in the talent, health and fitness and evening gown categories. The five semifinalists participated in a moderated conversation on stage, a new addition to this year’s competition. The health and fitness category was another new addition to the competition line-up.

Asked by stage conversation moderator DJ Williams of KARK what cause the Miss America Organization should officially promote, Keller broke down in tears. Her father, she said, watched the race from a hospital intensive care unit as a result of a heart condition.

“Cardiovascular disease is the No. 1 killer of Americans,” Keller said, her voice strained with emotion. “Because of preventive medicine, my dad is alive right now and watching this show.”

In the talent portion of the competition, contestants showcased their skills, which ranged from acro jazz and ventriloquism to tap dancing, vocal performances and violin playing.

Keller strutted to “Workin’,” oozing confidence and getting a standing ovation from the crowd.

For his victory, Keller will receive a $30,000 scholarship. The nonprofit Miss Arkansas Scholarship Foundation, which raises money for the scholarships awarded in the Miss Arkansas pageant, also awarded each contestant $400.

Competitors who won competitions in preliminary categories won additional scholarships. Keller won overall evening wear. 21-year-old Camille Cathy has won overall health and fitness. Brooke Bradford, 21, won the overall number of talks. Nia Rene’e Kelly, 19, won top talent.

Keller will represent the state as Miss Arkansas at the Miss America 2024 pageant later this year. The venue and date for the national competition have not yet been announced.

Cathey was this year’s runner-up. Bradford; Kennedy Holland, 18; and Kali Sherry, 22, make up the rest of the top 5.

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