Our Kind of People

How this Coast woman is trying to change the Mississippi stereotype

Hancock County resident Jaimee Dorris is the host of ‘MS Congeniality,’ a series of webisodes that focus on unique Mississippians.
Hancock County resident Jaimee Dorris is the host of ‘MS Congeniality,’ a series of webisodes that focus on unique Mississippians. Courtesy Jaimee Dorris

She’s a South Mississippi native who has lived in all three Coast counties, and she’s fed up with the way Mississippi is perceived by national media and the rest of the nation.

Equipped with her wit, a background in journalism, a team that focuses on web development and design and a closet full of ball gowns, Jaimee Dorris is doing something about the negative stereotype of Mississippi.

Dorris, a Hancock County resident and owner of a website development company, decided over the summer she wanted to produce a show that focused on Mississippians, primarily people of the Coast. She was inspired after the controversial House Bill 1523 was signed into law by Gov. Phil Bryant. The bill allowed businesses or business owners to deny services to people based on “religious freedom.” It had garnered criticism from business owners across the state and larger companies that operate in Mississippi, such as Nissan and MGM Resorts.

Dorris, 35, wants to erase that tainted image from the minds of people who know Mississippi only through a computer or television screen.

“I think Mississippi gets a bad rep,” she said. “I know so many neat people who are fascinating, worldly, intelligent, sophisticated or something else — but they’re rad.”

In just a few short months, she and her crew chose eight South Mississippi residents who she says make the Magnolia State a unique, funky place to call him. Some are Coast celebrities, such as thespian David Delk, who also owns ABC Rentals. Others, such as eco-friendly architect Allison Anderson, are changing the Mississippi landscape. Each will be featured in a webisode of Dorris’ “MS Congeniality,” which launches Wednesday.

Dorris said people are going to want to tune in to her webisodes, which will run at 11:30 a.m. every Wednesday for eight weeks on Facebook and YouTube, to hear their stories. In each episode, Dorris goes into their homes, sits down and stays a while and pulls out stories that have not been heard by many.

“There’s drinks, there’s dresses, there’s funny stories, music — and there’s golf cart karaoke,” she said.

She described “MS Congeniality” as “Late Night with Joan Rivers” meets “MTV Cribs” meets Oprah.

“They’re showing us some of their lives outside of what people know about them,” she said of her interview subjects.

She developed the name for the series after competing in the Mrs. Mississippi pageant earlier this year. She did not win but did win Mrs. Congeniality. In the show, Dorris stays in her pageant character. She wears ball gowns and fun, and sometimes strange, accessories for every filming.

“I might not be the most beautiful woman in the state, but I’m darn sure the friendliest, so I’m going to do something with it,” she said.

Dorris said she hopes to start filming episodes of “MS Congeniality” for TV in January.

“It’s going to be fun and exciting, and it’s not controversial at all,” she said. “The mission is to defy Mississippi stereotypes. This is our Mississippi. It’s going to be fun.”

Justin Mitchell: 228-604-0705, @Journalism_J