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Miss Indiana: Living out her dream while facing her biggest nightmare

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Posted at 5:48 PM, Nov 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-16 18:35:10-05

INDIANAPOLIS — In just a few days, our Miss Indiana, A’niyah Birdsong, will be heading to Tulsa, Oklahoma to compete for Miss USA. While she’s excited to represent her Hoosiers in this life-changing competition, her heart is heavy right now, after suddenly losing her mother in a car crash two weeks ago.

“I think about my journey to Miss USA, I was not expecting to be on cloud nine planning everything with my mom to honestly losing the person that was very integral to my success of being where I am today,” Birdsong said.

Birdsong says she’s still in shock after tragically losing her mother, Deveta Whigham, in a car crash on Oct. 31. Living out her wildest dreams after being crowned Miss Indiana back in July and heading to compete on the national stage, while now also facing her biggest nightmare of no longer having her mother by her side.

“I find myself being more invigorated and inspired to support not only my legacy but my mother’s legacy,” she said.

Her mother was a nurse and quite a figure in the Anderson community, Birdsong says. She was always building people up and supporting others. Birdsong works as a pharmaceutical marketer for Eli Lilly, which is behind her reason for competing in Miss USA.

“Mostly because I wanted to have more visibility of women of color in the pageant system and on this platform,” Birdsong explained. “But then showcase women involvement in STEM [Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics] and what that means.”

For the first time this year, both women representing Indiana in the Miss USA and Miss America pageants are African-American.

“It’s important to not only see women who look like me in this space, but it has also been inspiring to others who are wanting to get involved with different avenues that maybe they don’t see the representation that they would like to see,” Birdsong said.

She hopes this inspires others to keep pushing. Her story is one of tragedy, but also triumph.

“To anyone that’s going through any similar hardships, I would just anchor on your "why" and more so, just think about your purpose,” she added.

The pageant will air live on Nov. 29 at 7 p.m. on WFYI. There is a send-off party and fundraiser for Birdsong at the Pressure Lounge this Thursday, Nov. 18 from 4 to 7 p.m.

For more information about Birdsong's cause for Miss USA and where you can donate, visit aniyahbirdsong.com/.