Photo: Zach McKinley / The Daily Gamecock

VP-elect Hayes driven by passion for people, family



Wearing red.

These are some of the things one might see in or about Student Body Vice President-elect Mills Hayes when interacting with her.

When Hayes was growing up in Lexington, South Carolina, she was not even sure that she would set foot on USC's campus as a student. As her town is so close to the university, many people around her would end up attending, but she wanted to stand out.

But after she discovered Student Media and the School of Journalism and Mass Communications, it was a "no-brainer."

The third-year broadcast journalism student describes herself as curious about people. She aligns this curiosity and passion with her drive to be a journalist. 

"I get my energy from other people. When I'm around positive, fun-loving people I just — it makes me feel so much better about my life and about myself," Hayes says. "That's kind of what I want to also be like toward other people, is I want them to feel good after ... leaving an interaction with me."

The same passion for people that drive Hayes to a career in reporting is what led her to consider trying her hand in Student Government. She was senior class president in high school, and she felt that it was only natural to apply for freshman council once she got to USC.

Hayes did not end up on the council, though. She focused her attention on journalism with Student Media and became station manager for Student Gamecock Television (SGTV). She says that she grew as a leader and was able to hone her skills in this area.

Once Hayes had these leadership and communication skills under her belt, she didn't come to Student Government. They came to her. Someone approached her and said they wanted to "pick her brain" about SGTV, this person asked if she'd considered running for a position with SG and introduced her to her would-be running mate, Student Body President-elect Taylor Wright.

What Hayes holds close to her heart, perhaps before any of her ambition and curiosity of the population, is her family.

"My dad is my favorite person in this entire world," Hayes said. "He is the person I call when anything good or bad happens."

Hayes describes her dad as a person who is fun, a good public speaker and makes others feel comfortable because he loves people. She says she wants to imitate these qualities.

Hayes' step-mother, her dad's wife of about ten years, died when Hayes was 15. She says the hardest part of this was watching her little siblings grow up without their mom, and she says that her older sister is almost like a mom to her now.

One of the happiest moments in her life, Hayes said, was on her 21st birthday. Her friends were all gone — they were in Athens, Georgia, for the USC football game against UGA. Her dad didn't let her go. When she got to the family brunch, she was surprised to see that her parents had flown her sister in to see her and later join them for dinner.

"I do feel like ... family matters a little bit more now than anything. And my family has been so supportive of me, and they know me more than anything in this world," Hayes says. "Even when I'm not my best self, they forgive me."

On the campaign trail, Hayes had her self-doubts. Her running mate won his race, but she ended up in a run-off election. The student newspaper's editorial board endorsed her opponent over her.

"I don't want to let people down," Hayes says. "I want to prove people wrong who didn't believe in me, and I want to prove people right who did believe in me."

As for her hobbies and interests, she loves to work out. It's a stress reliever, she says. She also enjoys watching clips from Saturday Night Live, especially while she's working out. Some of her favorite stars of the show include comedians and actors Amy Poehler and Pete Davidson.

When Hayes walks into a room, the vibe is not necessarily political or humorous, but it is powerful. Her voice is a strong, Southern one. She is likely to be wearing red somewhere on her person and holding a cup of coffee to keep herself on her toes.

"Coffee and red lipstick ... When I put on my red lipstick, I put on my red dress, my red whatever, I automatically feel so much more confident in myself," Hayes says. "I'm ready to go, I can take on the world, I've got this, I'm Mills Hayes, let's do this."

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