Competing for national crown, Miss Indiana USA to honor mom who died in crash – WISHTV.com

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A’Niyah Birdsong, crowned Miss Indiana USA in July, lost her mother, DeVeta Whingham, in a tragic car crash just weeks before she was set to compete for the Miss USA crown.

She is using this heartbreaking experience as a lesson in perseverance as she continues the dream the two shared for years.

News 8’s Sierra Hignite met up with Birdsong just four days before she heads to Tulsa, Oklahoma, to compete for the Miss USA title. She asked to meet at Ivy Tech’s Indianapolis campus. It’s where Whingham graduated in 2003 with honors as a licensed practical nurse. It was one of the many ways Birdsong’s mom taught her the importance of working toward your dreams no matter what hurdles may be in your way.

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Provided Photo/A’Niyah Birdsong

Birdsong’s biggest supporter stood proudly in the crowd to cheer her on as she was crowned Miss Indiana USA.

Just a few weeks before her daughter was set to compete in Miss USA, Whingham lost her life in a car crash on I-465 on Oct. 31.

“When I got the news that day I just really thought, ‘What am I doing all this for?’” Birdsong said. “I had just lost my biggest supporter. I had a lot of doubt and frustration with the world and just the reason of why this is happening at this moment in time.”

In the wake of such tragedy and heartache, she questioned if she could move forward.

“My mom would be so hurt if I stopped on a dream that we have shared for so long knowing the circumstance,” she said.

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Provided Photo/A’Niyah Birdsong

Birdsong leaves for Miss USA this weekend and will wear her mom close to her heart all week long, paying tribute to what she calls her “spirit animal” along the way.

“[Indiana has] 19 stars but I have a 20th star that is going to be outlined in blue and it has my mom’s initial on it that. So that is going to be another way to commemorate her and know that she is not only in the building but also on stage every walk that I have,” Birdsong said.

She chose the platform for the competition “#DareToDisrupt,” hoping to inspire others. Never did she think she would end up needing to lean onto that lesson so heavily herself.

“I want to use this opportunity to not only be a true living testimony that adversity can be thrown your way but how can you use that to elevate and be able to redefine what your purpose is of why you’re here,” Birdsong said.

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Photo courtesy: A’Niyah Birdsong

As she packs her crown and sash for the big stage, Birdsong is holding her mom’s memory close and looking to her for motivation to power through.

“I can still hear her in the back of my head like, ‘Hey toots, you’ve got this. Keep on the path and make everyone proud around you,’” Birdsong said.

The Miss USA competition can be seen on HULU or WFYI on Nov. 29 at 7 p.m.

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