April 18, 2019  

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University of Southern Mississippi Alum Captures Miss Senior America Title

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USM alum and Petal dentist Dr. Barbara Mauldin captured the Miss Senior America title last month in Atlantic City, N.J. (Submitted photo)

University of Southern Mississippi alum and Petal, Miss., resident Dr. Barbara Mauldin took home the crown of “Miss Senior America 2015” during the annual competition held last month in Atlantic City, New Jersey. 

Mauldin, a 1979 Southern Miss graduate, serves the Petal community as a dentist, while also enjoying her hobby as a dancer. Her love of dancing also extends to teaching the skill to people of all ages. 

It was not long after the Vicksburg, Miss., native began teaching in the ballrooms that Mauldin decided to embark on pageantry herself. Commonly, pageants are for women who have yet to start families. That misconception did not stop Mauldin from reaching her dreams of taking a national crown in pageant competition. 

Shortly after participating in amateur competitions, she underwent the process of prepping herself for the “Miss Senior America Pageant.” First, she had to compete in the state competition in Picayune, Miss., before her dreams of taking her talents to the national level could ever be realized. 

"I applied to be able to compete for the state competition, and I was the first invited,” Mauldin said. "There were seven of us in the state pageant in Picayune for the Miss Mississippi Senior America."

She conquered that contest, winning and placing herself on the path to vie for the national crown. When she saw the women competing for the national title, Mauldin was reserved about her chances of winning. 

"The process was very humbling and all the women were very talented, beautiful and confident in who they (were),” Mauldin said. "I met several women in their 80s and 90s, and it served as a role model for me for when I reach in my 90s.”

Timid and shy at first, Mauldin just focused on staying true to herself. At the end of the competition just before the winner was announced, Mauldin was more surprised that she won, than maybe even the audience. 

"My first reaction was complete surprise,” Mauldin said. "I thought that if I even made the top 10, I knew I would be blessed.” 

Mauldin’s success was not without diligent practice and repetition. Her winnings in Atlantic City were not started there, but more than 1,000 miles away back home in Mississippi. 

Mauldin owns Studio 117 in Petal, Mississippi, where she practiced her dance moves for the pageants. She has danced in many amateur competitions in the USA Ballroom Dance Organization, thus she had a lot of practice while getting ready for the biggest showcase of her life. 

“I danced a waltz with my husband, and he served as a surrogate partner,” Mauldin said. “I practiced every day on my several arm movements and things.”

Mauldin does not only dance for the awards or fanfare, but for her own enjoyment. She believes that dancing allows her to express herself in a way that she cannot do in her dentistry. Yet, the two do have their similarities.

“I’ve always been aware of how important a smile is to someone’s self-esteem and their presentation,” Mauldin said. “When someone is proud of their smile, they don’t mind showing it.”

From dentistry to pageantry, Mauldin has done it all — with credit to her alma mater. She did attend the University of Mississippi for her Registered Dental Hygiene degree, but she says that she still supports the black and gold of Southern Miss first. 

"All of my children and me and my husband have benefitted from all of the programs that USM has provided through the years,” Mauldin said. “I think USM does a marvelous job for my community and the outlying population.”

At the age of 61, Mauldin narrowly qualified for the national pageant, as the minimum age to enter was 60. Never backing down from a challenge is a lesson that has been passed on to other women at the university. 

"She’s very inspiring to me as a woman to see all of her dreams come true,” said Kerri Paul, development officer in the USM Foundation. "She is unique because she is a trailblazer.”

Mauldin is now back home in Petal, where she will continue her work as a dentist while also undoubtedly serving as an influence to women at USM and beyond. 

Mauldin enjoys her success along with her husband Richard and their five children -- Jonathan, Katy, Samuel, Maxwell and Philip.