Behind the Homecoming elections: a Q&A with Kenzee Blount and Bradford Stewart
Q: What was your platform? Why did you choose it? Talk about why it’s a cause close to your heart.
Blount: I ran on the platform encouraging everyone to be authentically themselves using the phrase “Be Authentically You.” Throughout my time here at the university, I have gotten the chance to meet so many amazing staff and peers who have welcomed and accepted me with open arms. From them, I have gotten the opportunity to learn and grow in a multitude of ways. Without them, I would not be the person I am today. So through this campaign, I am hoping that I can be that person for students across campus. I hope that I am able to help other students see their potential and that they are perfect just the way they are.
Stewart: When I began brainstorming ideas for my platform for 2021 Homecoming Queen, the first bullet points on my list were wanting something that was different and stood out. I wanted a slogan that told people who might not know me exactly who I was. From there I started brainstorming and came up with the slogan, “Brighter with Bradford”. I chose “Brighter with Bradford” because I felt as though it exemplified my character traits, as well as my experience as an Ole Miss Rebel. The slogan quickly became close to my heart. Throughout my years at Ole Miss, a goal of mine has been to have people see me as a light in their life. The slogan did just that and more. It became much less about me and more about the many friendships that have been a bright light in my life. It became about the amazing experiences so many of us have had at Ole Miss.
Q: Why did you decide to run? Was it a goal of yours before this year? Were you encouraged by friends/family?
Blount: When I first came to Ole Miss, I never would have thought I would be running for a position like Homecoming King. And up until about two weeks before campaign season started, I still didn’t think I would run. But with constant support from friends and family, I decided I wanted to leave a lasting legacy on campus that would hopefully help change our UM Community for the better. Our university thrives off of all the unique and diverse people who attend here, and without them, our campus wouldn’t have the chance to learn and grow from so many different perspectives. So I wanted to run on a platform encouraging everyone to embrace authentic selves so that we can hopefully make Ole Miss a welcoming environment for all.
Stewart: If you had told me my freshman year at Ole Miss that I would be running for Homecoming Queen when I was a senior, I would’ve thought that you were joking! When hearing from my sorority that I was nominated, I was in shock. Of course, I was overjoyed, excited, and honored that they had chosen me, but I had never done anything like this before. I was encouraged by my parents, two sisters, and my sorority to pursue the opportunity. Once doing so, I never looked back! I pursued this opportunity because I wanted to be a light on this campus and to be able to touch as many lives as possible!
Q: Talk about the process of running—organizing a team, campaigning, etc. Was it stressful? Fun? What all did it entail?
Blount: I decided to run only a couple of weeks before campaign season started, so the beginnings of my campaign were a bit chaotic. It was easy for me to come up with my platform and design for my sign and stickers, and with the help of my friends, getting the word out that I was planning on running was also kind of an easy process! The true test came when elections actually started! This was a time that truly helped me learn and grow the most throughout the entire experience. I loved being able to meet and reconnect with so many amazing people throughout the whole campaign process, but by the end of it all, I was exhausted. I am so grateful for this experience though! It is definitely one I will never forget!
Stewart: After finding out I had been nominated by my sorority, everything went full speed ahead. From there it was a lot of campaign ideas, finding campaign managers, excel spreadsheets, social media content creation, photos, videos, stickers, slogans and so much more! A quick little fun fact is I actually designed my own sticker! I did as much as I could before campaigning started on September 9th. Throughout the 2 weeks of campaigning, I handed out stickers on the Union Plaza by my sign. I talked to students and made so many friends that I might not have ever connected with if it wasn’t for campaign season. Campaigning season was so much fun and goes down in my book as one of my most favorite experiences as an Ole Miss Rebel.
Q: Describe the moment you found out you had won. How did you feel? What did you do to celebrate?
Blount: When I heard them say my name, I was truly just in awe. I was so honored and grateful that the students of Ole Miss wanted me to represent them as their next Homecoming King. All I could do in the moments after was jump for joy and hug all of my friends who helped me out in every way possible during the campaign. Following typical traditions after getting the chance to see Bradford and congratulate her, we made our way to my sign to change it from “For Homecoming King” to “IS Homecoming King!” and then went out for a celebratory dinner to mark the end of a successful campaign!
Stewart: When I found out I had won, I was in awe and felt like I was dreaming. I had walked up to the Lyceum feeling at peace. It was a feeling of I’ve done everything I could’ve possibly done and no matter what the outcome is I will never forget this experience and opportunity. I immediately couldn’t believe our campus had voted me to be their Homecoming Queen. I felt honored, humbled, and overwhelmed with joy! I walked back to my sorority house where I painted over the “for” to “is” on my sign and celebrated with my friends and family.
Q: What are you most looking forward to doing while holding the title of Homecoming King/Queen?
Blount: One of the moments I was most looking forward to while holding the title of Homecoming King was the week of the Homecoming Game. This week was truly a fever dream, and I was so excited to experience all the typical Homecoming traditions back in full swing! The presentation at halftime was magical, and will forever be engraved in my heart as one of my favorite moments! Looking forward, I am excited to continue to push for all students on campus to embrace their authentic selves.
Stewart: Throughout the time I hold the title of Homecoming Queen, I am most looking forward to continuing the new friendships I made while campaigning. There were so many amazing people that I met those two weeks, and I can’t wait to see where this next year takes me in those friendships.
Q: How do you hope to better Ole Miss over the next year through your role?
Blount: As a community, we have made great strides forward in trying to make this place a welcoming environment for everyone, but we still have a ways to go in breaking those stereotypes others have about our university. Through this role and my campaign, I am hoping that I can help our university get one step closer to achieving this goal. I hope that I am able to help others see that this university is a place for everyone and that our unique characteristics are something to be celebrated here at Ole Miss.
Stewart: I hope to be someone that my peers feel like they can come to about anything. I hope that I am someone they feel like is approachable. Someone who lifts them up when they are down and cheers them on when they are at the peak. I want to be an encouragement on this campus!
Q: What do you want to make sure that the students of Ole Miss know (about you, your platform, perhaps the school in general)?
Blount: Ole Miss and the community you build here will change your life for the better. This university provides boundless opportunities for every student that steps foot on campus; you just have to take the initiative to jump headfirst into the creek and take advantage of everything this community has to offer.
Stewart: I love this university and have loved it for longer than I have been a student. I’m passionate about Ole Miss Football and am always up for a walk through the Grove! It has been a dream come true to be able to represent our university as Homecoming Queen and I owe it all to you, Ole Miss! I couldn’t have done it without your constant encouragement, love, and support! I’m so thankful to be an Ole Miss Rebel!