Lee’s Summit woman becomes first African-American Miss Missouri USA

Bayleigh Dayton of Lee’s Summit became the first African-American woman crowned Miss Missouri USA on Sunday.
Bayleigh Dayton of Lee’s Summit became the first African-American woman crowned Miss Missouri USA on Sunday. Photo courtesy of the Dayton family

Bayleigh Dayton set out to make history when she first entered the Miss Missouri USA pageant in 2013. She wanted to become the first African-American woman to win the crown.

After finishing in the top 16 of the 2013 pageant, Dayton re-entered the contest last year and finished as first runner-up. She was also awarded Miss Congeniality for 2016.

This time around, the 23-year-old flight attendant and print model wasn’t going to settle. Dayton won the 2017 Miss Missouri USA title this past weekend in St. Charles.

Dayton, a graduate of Baylor University and Notre Dame de Sion High School in Kansas City, said that hurdles of past competitions were not present this year. She competed as Miss Kansas City.

“Last year when I entered, I knew that my road to pageantry wasn’t finished,” Dayton said. “When I made top five last year I knew that I could do this. The insecurities weren’t there. It was easier for me to focus this year.”

By winning, Dayton advances to the nationally televised Miss USA Pageant next year. If she wins Miss USA, she would then advance to the internationally televised Miss Universe Pageant.

In the meantime, Dayton plans to make an impact with her newfound status.

“It’s awesome to be able to put a face with a title,” she said. “I’m obviously the first African-American titleholder in this position. Now girls have someone to look up to and can have an actual role model.”

Other Miss USA state pageants have crowned African-Americans, including Kansas.

To get to the top of this year’s competition, Dayton first competed in the swimsuit and evening gown categories.

She wore what she described as an elegant yellow two-piece swimsuit, then slayed the competition in a dashing bright turquoise evening gown by Jovani presented to her by sponsor Gown Gallery of Kansas City.

As a semifinalist Dayton had to again woo judges in a swimsuit and evening gown and participate in personal interviews with judges.

After making it to the top 5, Dayton then aced another round of fashion and on-stage interviews to claim the piece of history that she set her eyes on four years ago.

“When they called my name I was freaking out,” she said. “I had to calm myself down.”

Dayton looks forward to representing the state on and off the pageant stage. She also offered a nugget for those who cross her path.

“Learn to walk with kings and queens but never lose the common touch,” she said. “I want everybody to know that yes, I am a queen, but I am a queen for the people and I am here to serve.”

Toriano Porter: 816-234-4779, @torianoporter