Felicia McGill, a fourth-year math and Spanish student, was crowned the Miss Gamecock 2022 pageant-winner on Nov. 13 after applying last minute.
Though McGill has competed in pageants since she was 8 years old, she originally couldn't apply for the Miss Gamecock Pageant because she planned to attend a neuroscience conference, which was later canceled.
The Gamecock Pageant Club hosts the Miss Gamecock Pageant, which is open to any USC student. This was the sixth-annual pageant.
Ten contestants competed in five portions of the pageant competition. McGill won three of the portions, securing her title as Miss Gamecock 2022.
She started her pageant career when she was invited to attend a scholarship organization called Preteen America. It provided her with an introduction into the pageantry industry, as well as interviewing and onstage questioning practice.
"The organization really shaped who I am," McGill said.
Throughout middle school and high school, McGill competed in the National American Miss organization.
McGill plays the piano for the talent portion of pageants. As a child, she said she asked her mother and grandmother to start taking lessons.
For the Miss Gamecock Pageant, each contestant chooses a cause to represent and raise money for. McGill's platform is centered around autism awareness through an organization called Respect The Spectrum.
She said she was inspired by her brother, who has autism, and she wants to bring awareness to the university. She is involved in academic autism research on campus in the neuro-developmental disorders lab and even has interest in being an neuro-developmental researcher one day.
“I think it is important to have something you’re passionate about, and I would argue that autism is essentially my entire life,” said McGill.
Once crowned, Miss Gamecock 2022 duties include representation, service and empowerment.
Byron Thomas, the founder and executive director of Miss Gamecock and Gamecock Pageant Club, said he is passionate about creating a space for young women to feel powerful and to earn scholarship money. His job now that McGill has been crowned is to help her achieve her dreams of becoming Miss South Carolina and Miss America.
Byron said McGill's most effective talent is her intelligence. In their mock interview, he said her vast vocabulary blew him away. Byron said he'll be a mentor to McGill throughout her tenure.
Byron said he is "honored that she is my new queen."
Madison Coffman is a fourth-year elementary education major and Secretary of the Gamecock Pageant Club executive board. She will also support McGill throughout her tenure.
"She genuinely cares about people and I think you can tell that just by interacting with her for a short period of time," Coffman said.
McGill will represent USC at this summer's Miss South Carolina Pageant.
"As Miss Gamecock you are not just promoting a pageant, you're promoting higher education, you're promoting the University of South Carolina," McGill said.