Miss Alabama 2023: Brianna Burrell, Miss Baldwin County, takes the crown (2024)

Brianna Burrell is the new Miss Alabama.

Burrell, 25, was crowned Saturday night at Samford University’s Wright Center in Birmingham. She competed as Miss Baldwin County, besting 41 other contestants for the 2023 state title. Burrell will move on to represent Alabama at the Miss America competition.

Burrell takes over the role of Miss Alabama from Lindsay Gaines Fincher, Miss Alabama 2022. Fincher crowned her successor at the Wright Center on Saturday and presented her with a bouquet of roses. Burrell could be seen tearing up when her name was announced on stage, and she pointed skyward several times, evidently thanking God for her victory.

“I feel ecstatic, a whirlwind of emotions, but I’m super honored for this opportunity God gave me,” Burrell said backstage after her win. “As Miss Alabama, I’m ready to hit the ground running to work for this great state of Alabama.”

Burrell is the third Black woman to earn the title of Miss Alabama in the competition’s 102-year history, following Tiara Pennington, Miss Alabama 2019-2020, and Kalyn Chapman James, Miss Alabama 1993. (Pennington held the crown an extra year during the coronavirus pandemic.)

RELATED: How many Black women have won Miss Alabama or Miss Alabama USA?

Burrell, from Mobile, is a graduate of the University of South Alabama, where she majored in political science. She was the first runner-up for Miss Alabama in 2022, coming in second to Fincher. Her win this year released a flood of thoughts and emotions, Burrell told AL.com.

“It was accomplishment; it was confirmation; it was excitement,” Burrell said. “It was me wanting to scream congratulations to the other girls. It was just a massive, massive amount of thoughts and emotions and gratitude -- and just a pat on the back for myself. I had to realize that I did the hard work, and God wanted to recognize that, and I’m so honored that He gave me this opportunity.”

Miss Alabama 2023: Brianna Burrell, Miss Baldwin County, takes the crown (1)

The yearlong reign of the new Miss Alabama starts immediately. She’ll make public appearances, do charity work, speak to community groups, motivate students and more. Burrell’s community service initiative is SAVE-A-STEM, which encourages engagement in science, technology, engineering and math for students of color and underfunded schools.

“I want to accomplish a year of connection, where I make relationships with people across the state of Alabama,” Burrell said. “And have that year where it’s more than just accomplishments and me making those tangible results in education, but making sure that people feel seen, feel loved and valued after meeting me.”

Burrell was one of 13 semifinalists chosen at the pageant finals on Saturday, competing in segments that focused on talent, on-stage interview, evening gown and heath and fitness. For talent, she sang “Alabaster Box,” a gospel song recorded by CeCe Winans.

Miss Alabama 2023: Brianna Burrell, Miss Baldwin County, takes the crown (2)

Three rounds of preliminary contests for Miss Alabama 2023 took place Wednesday through Friday at the Wright Center, giving all 42 contestants a chance to strut their stuff in talent, evening gown, health and fitness and on-stage interview segments. The contestants also chatted with the judges this week during off-stage interviews and showcased their community service initiatives.

Burrell won two preliminary awards this week, earning the top score in the evening gown competition on Wednesday and the talent competition on Friday.

Scores received in the preliminaries were used to create a composite score that was considered by the judges on Saturday, and weighted as 30 percent of each contestant’s score in the finals. This was added to Saturday scores in talent, evening gown and health and fitness (each weighted as 20 percent) and on-stage question (10 percent).

Miss Alabama, like the Miss America organization, no longer has a swimsuit competition. It was eliminated at Miss America in 2018, and Miss Alabama followed suit in 2019. However, a health and fitness segment was added this year, and contestants modeled activewear designed for the Miss America organization by Rebel Athletic.

Also new this year: A People’s Choice Contest that allowed the pubic to vote online for their favorite contestants in advance of the Miss Alabama finals. Each vote cost $1. The contestant with the most votes earned a spot among the top 13 semifinalists on Saturday. Voting ran through Friday evening, according to the PageantPlanet.com. Sydnee Cantley, Miss Gulf Coast, was the People’s Choice semifinalist on Saturday.

The top 13 semifinalists this year were:

  • Abbie Stockard, Miss Trussville
  • Marissa Luna, Miss Cahaba Valley
  • Emee Baldwin, Miss Jefferson County
  • Hannah Adams, Miss Birmingham
  • Ashlyn Powers, Miss Mobile Bay
  • Ibby Dickson, Miss University of Alabama
  • Brianna Burrell, Miss Baldwin County
  • Karoline Copeland, Miss Auburn University
  • Mary-co*ker Green, Miss Hoover
  • Emma Terry, Miss UAB
  • Lily Grace Vernon, Miss Jacksonville State University
  • Emma Wright, Miss Leeds Area
  • Sydnee Cantley, Miss Gulf Coast (People’s Choice)

Later on Saturday, the list of finalists was trimmed to the top five. They were:

  • Brianna Burrell, Miss Baldwin County (winner)
  • Emma Terry, Miss UAB (first runner-up)
  • Ibby Dickson, Miss University of Alabama (second runner-up)
  • Hannah Adams, Miss Birmingham (third runner-up)
  • Abbie Stockard, Miss Trussville (fourth runner-up)
Miss Alabama 2023: Brianna Burrell, Miss Baldwin County, takes the crown (3)

Although glitzy on-stage activity is the most public aspect of the Miss Alabama pageant, there’s significant scholarship money at stake behind the scenes. Cash scholarships in various categories are awarded to contestants during competition week, totaling $128,000 this year, according to the Miss Alabama pageant guide.

The title of Miss Alabama comes with a $15,000 scholarship. The first runner-up receives $5,000; the second runner-up receives $3,000; the third runner-up gets $2,500; the fourth-runner up receives $2,000, all in scholarship money.

Other semi-finalists receive $1,500 each in scholarship money. The remaining contestants receive $1,250 each for competing in the pageant. More than 50 other cash scholarships, in sums of $100-$3,000, are awarded by the pageant’s scholarship committee and various donors.

This week’s preliminary talent winners will receive $500 each in scholarship money, according to the pageant guide. Winners in the evening gown preliminaries will receive $300 each in scholarship money.

Several colleges and universities in the state also offer in-kind scholarships to the winner and other contestants, paying tuition, fees and other expenses.

Judges for this year were McNeil Chestnut, Morgan Smith, Chika Kaba Ma’atunde, Nanette Pearson Swenson and Chuck Steelman.

Meg McGuffin, Miss Alabama 2015, was the emcee for Saturday’s program. The agenda included dance performances by Fincher and vocals by Shannon Camper Chandler, Miss Alabama 2004. Production numbers at this year’s competition featured songs such as “Don’t Stop Me Now,” “Stronger,” “Brave” and “Can’t Stop the Feeling.”

Miss Alabama 2023: Brianna Burrell, Miss Baldwin County, takes the crown (4)

Saturday’s program also included tributes to Peggy Elder Butler, Miss Alabama 1947, who died on April 30 at age 93; and Jana Sanderson McEachern, Miss Alabama 2000, who died on Dec. 16, 2022.

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Miss Alabama 2023: Brianna Burrell, Miss Baldwin County, takes the crown (2024)
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