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Grayson grad takes Miss Gwinnett crown

Courtney Hinesley is crowned Miss Gwinnett County 2013 by last years winner Shelby Rice as Taylor McCoy looks on during the Miss Gwinnett County Pageant Saturday night at the Gwinnett County Fair.  (Photo: Karl L. Moore)

Courtney Hinesley is crowned Miss Gwinnett County 2013 by last years winner Shelby Rice as Taylor McCoy looks on during the Miss Gwinnett County Pageant Saturday night at the Gwinnett County Fair. (Photo: Karl L. Moore)

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Courtney Hinesley waves to the audience after being crowned Miss Gwinnett County 2013 during the Miss Gwinnett County Pageant Saturday night at the Gwinnett County Fair. (Photo: Karl L. Moore)

LAWRENCEVILLE — Miss Gwinnett is homeless.

Grayson High School grad Courtney Hinesley won the Miss Gwinnett pageant Saturday at the Gwinnett County Fairgrounds — and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

“Currently my entire life is in my back seat,” Hinesley said with a smile, “so this means everything in the world.”

Hinesley, a freshman at Georgia Regents University (formerly known as Georgia Medical College), said she had a dicey roommate situation and decided to move out this week. The move made her temporarily homeless, though her parents are, of course, providing her shelter. Regardless, she came out on top Saturday night.

She beat out eight other contestants for the title, singing Melissa Manchester’s “Don’t Cry Out Loud” en route to the crown.

“This is my third prelim this year, and I got third runner-up in Miss Atlanta, so I thought maybe the third time was the charm,” she said. “I feel like I left it all out there.”

Contestants squared off in interviews, an on-stage Q-and-A, and swimsuit, talent and evening gown competitions. Among other prizes, Hinesley will be granted a $1,200 scholarship and an all-expenses paid trip to next June’s Miss Georgia pageant, a qualifier for Miss America.

The local pageant has been held since 1955. Although it’s called Miss Gwinnett, young women from 100 Georgia counties are eligible — the cutoff runs east from the city of Columbus all the way to the South Carolina line, and ladies from all parts north can participate.

Hinesley was also given the “people’s choice” award and took the swimsuit competition title. Hayley Henderson, a grad student at Columbus State University, took first runner-up Saturday. Stephanie Gargiulo, a Kennesaw State University student with a pet goat, was named second runner-up.

Georgia State University senior Gabrielle Booth, who sang an aria from Puccini’s “Tosca,” was named the talent competition winner. London Taylor, a Peachtree Ridge High School grad, was the only contest whose talent was not singing. She played a violin solo over a techno rendition of Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing.”

Before crowning Hinesley, outgoing Miss Gwinnett Shelby Rice had some words of advice.

“You’re going to be so spoiled,” she said, “but remember to stay humble, serve others and have fun.”