Holladay resident wins Mrs. Utah title and uses platform to fight human trafficking
Jul 29, 2020 11:53AM
By Heather Lawrence
“This pageant is so community service based. There’s so much more to it than dressing up and parading around stage in a swimsuit,” said Mrs. Utah winner Paris Morris of Salt Lake. (Veronica Benson Photography)
By Heather Lawrence | [email protected]
Paris Morris, who was crowned Mrs. Utah America July 11, knows that people have preconceived notions of what a pageant is like. She had them herself as a teen, before her mom encouraged her to enter the Miss Teen Utah competition.
“My mom was the one who got me started. She wanted me to get out of my shell and develop some interview and people skills. She said I had to do it once, just for the growing experience. So, I did it, and I fell in love with it,” Morris said.
Morris’s mother, Cherie Fisher knew about pageants. She had won the Mrs. Utah America pageant title in 2002. Morris learned a lot from her mother’s win.
“When she won, I remember how happy she made people when she volunteered, with me right by her side. Now I can’t wait to serve our state with my own 14-month-old daughter Lottie by my side,” Morris said.
For Morris, it’s fitting that her child should be a part of her time as Mrs. Utah. “The most important part of this pageant is your platform, the cause you want to bring attention to during your year as Mrs. Utah. And mine is to fight human trafficking, especially of children,” Morris said.
Morris teamed up with Operation Underground Railroad, a nonprofit with offices in California and Cedar City. OUR works with governments all over the world to rescue victims and arrest human traffickers.
“Before I entered the pageant, I watched a documentary, ‘Operation Toussaint’ about an OUR rescue in Haiti. It was so good, but so hard to watch. I saw one of their missions and how they rescue children,” Morris said.
OUR lists statistics of missions on their website, and another thing that made an impact on Morris was the number 58. “That’s how many victims have been rescued this year in Utah. Trafficking happens everywhere, even here in our state. So, I wanted to use my platform to volunteer, fundraise and bring attention to their organization,” Morris said.
The pageant was held at an outdoor venue in Ogden and the audience was limited by COVID-19 restrictions. The event started at her daughter’s bedtime, so Morris and her husband William left Lottie with her grandparents, who watched on the live stream.
“My parents knew how important the on-stage question portion was—it’s 50% of your total score. There is evening gown and swimsuit and a costume portion, too. I won the on-stage question (interview) and evening gown portion. When I talked to my parents they told me they were so emotional after that because they knew I would win.
“It was actually really beautiful to compete outdoors, looking at the mountains. I’ve done these for several years; I won Miss Teen Utah in 2007 and competed for Miss Utah for four years before I got married,” Morris said.
Morris loved that after she got married, there was still a way for her to compete. She enjoyed the pageant’s focus on service and meeting the other contestants.
“This pageant is so community service based. There’s so much more to it than dressing up and parading around stage in a swimsuit. It was great to meet other women, hear what they’re passionate about and how they’re trying to make our state a better place,” Morris said.
She also likes the diversity. “It’s more about being healthy than skinny. It’s about being the best you are for your body type. There are diverse body shapes, including plus size and curvy. The judges care more about what you’re going to do with your year than if you wear size zero,” Morris said.
Morris, who attended Churchill Jr. High and graduated from Skyline in 2010, is eager to represent Utah in the October competition. Each state winner will compete in Las Vegas in October for the Mrs. America title. That winner will go to Sri Lanka in November to compete for the Mrs. World title.
As Mrs. Utah America, Morris has organized her first fundraiser through Burg Pediatric Dentistry, where she works part time. “July 30 is a worldwide Day Against Human Trafficking. All our profits that day from all our offices will be donated to OUR. People can also donate online on their website. My goal is to raise $50,000 which will rescue 20 children,” Morris said.
Morris said the pageant is a way that she takes time for herself and things that are important to her, even at this busy stage in her life.
“As a married woman and mother you’re still able to celebrate yourself and maximize your potential. It’s easy as a mom to get lost in taking care of everyone else’s needs. But you have these little eyes watching you, and you have to take care of yourself. You have to live your dreams,” Morris said.