As the coronavirus forced much of the world into quarantine and isolation, most people took up hobbies such as baking or reading. This year’s Miss Ole Miss, Lilli Gordon, has a different story.
For the first half of 2020, Gordon was in Australia studying abroad. In March, she was faced with a choice: go home immediately or stay in Australia indefinitely. Gordon chose the latter, so that she could continue working and traveling throughout the country.
Gordon said it was interesting seeing how Australia handled the pandemic and watching it unfold in the United States from the other side of the world. She considers herself lucky to have had the experience, but she also reflected on the other struggles Australia faced while she was there.
“I was very lucky to get to stay there. I ended up staying longer than I would have if I had just studied abroad casually, so it definitely put us through it because we had the bushfires when we got there, and then there were all these floods, and then the pandemic hit,” Gordon said. “I was like, ‘I’m never gonna catch a break.’”
Kylie Cockrell, one of Gordon’s best friends, said she and co-campaign manager, Ian Pigg, joked with Gordon about visiting her in Australia upon learning that she was studying abroad for the spring semester; they followed through less than a month later, buying plane tickets and booking a trip.
Cockrell said that on one of her and Pigg’s last nights in Australia, while on a sunset cruise in Sydney Harbor talking about spring elections, she told Gordon that if she ran for Miss Ole Miss, they would be her campaign managers.
“We made a little pact that night between us three that we wanted to do this together, even though not one of us had an idea what to do or where to start,” Cockrell said. “Lilli and Ian are the friends that push you out of your comfort zone and to jump in head first. I know we will never in a million years forget that boat ride.”
Pigg said that he considered Gordon to be the perfect candidate for Miss Ole Miss.
“While her Ole Miss experience had been different from the traditional one since she had taken advantage of a lot of opportunities to study abroad, she was still somehow plugged into campus and the people there while she was halfway across the world,” Pigg said.
Gordon loves traveling and considers it to be a hobby of hers. Last summer, Gordon was a recipient of the Freeman Foundation grant, allowing her to work at dental clinics in Thailand and Vietnam for the summer.
“The whole premise of it is they want you to be familiarized with Southeastern culture and integrate American students into Southeast Asia,” Gordon said. “So, I worked in a dental clinic in Vietnam for four weeks, then in Thailand for four weeks and then just did some traveling.”
Cockrell said that Gordon has shown her what a true friend should be, and she considers Gordon a constant in her life.
“She has pushed me, encouraged me and made me appreciate the little things. I love watching her love her people here at Ole Miss,” Cockrell said. “She has shown me how to tackle life head on, and I wouldn’t trade her friendship for anything.”
Gordon said she looks forward to collaborating with Cade Slaughter, this year’s Mr. Ole Miss on their service project. Her campaign supported the Boys and Girls Club, where she’s volunteered for the past three years, and she would like to continue that support as Miss Ole Miss.
“I feel like we take over (Oxford) every year for nine months and then just leave, and we get wrapped up in things going on on campus, so if we could do something for the Boys and Girls Club, that would be incredible,” Gordon said. “I know a lot of the kids struggle with getting the nutrition that they need every week, so anything with a food drive. I think it would be really fun just to give the kids something to look forward to.”