Lily Gayle’s journey to the top

Many do not know Lily Gayle’s journey to becoming one of Southeastern’s most inspirational women started overseas.

After recently graduating in sports broadcast, Gayle began working as a Southeastern Athletics graduate assistant in the Center for Academic Excellence and as an athletic marketing intern. Recently, she applied and was offered the position of assistant sports information director while also pursuing her master’s in strategic communication. 

Gayle began her story at age three when her family moved to Peru, South America as a missionary family. She lived there until her family completed their mission and moved back to the states at 13. Throughout her time in South America, she learned their culture, language and way of life. 

After growing up in a different country, Gayle experienced major culture shock returning to the United States. Although she was born in Baton Rouge, it is not where she considered home. 

The struggle of changing environments took a major toll on Gayle’s mental health. Between the pressure of society, bullying and body image, Gayle attempted to end her life. 

“I was homeschooled my whole life, so I didn’t really understand what it was like to be in society. That was difficult, but you know, I believe that hardships make you into a better person and that iron sharpens iron in that way,” Gayle said. 

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Throughout each obstacle, Gayle has continued striving to do her best. 

Gayle’s original plan was to complete her prerequisites at Southeastern, then transfer to Louisiana State University to finish her degree. After spending more time and receiving guidance at Southeastern, Gayle fell in love with the communication department and the home of the Green and Gold. 

Her decision to pursue communication opened several doors for her future. She became exposed to multiple groups and opportunities around campus. 

Gayle worked as an orientation leader, Fellow Christan Athletes leader and an ESPN reporter for Southeastern. Over a short period of time, Gayle became well-known and well-loved across campus. 

Current Miss Southeastern Megan Magri said, “Lily is someone you want in your life. Her life experiences are what shaped her into the person she is today and I admire how independent she is. She takes life head on and does it with grace.”

Gayle’s first attempt at the crown was in the Fall of 2020. With her first time competing in pageants, she was named runner-up. The shock and thrill of the results only drove Gayle’s determination to become the next Miss Southeastern. 

“They called top five and my name was called. I thought what the heck is going on and then my name gets called for first runner-up. If you could see my reaction, it looks like I actually won the whole thing and at that moment I knew that I was in for the next Miss Southeastern,” said Gayle.

She spent 13 months preparing without knowing if they would have the competition due to COVID-19. With proper preparation and faith in God, Gayle achieved her dreams.

“Being crowned motivated me because I realized that I was capable enough and qualified to be called to be representative not only for the people that I represent in my social impact initiative, but the people of the university, in Hammond and around the Tangipahoa area.” 

Serving as Miss Southeastern inspired and paved the way for her future. She continued her journey to compete in Miss Louisiana, where she was named a semi-finalist in 2021 and 2022. 

Gayle continues to inspire those in the community, teaching everyone to “reach for the sky.”

“As a little girl, I always thought that I was supposed to be kept inside a box because I was always taught that you’re going to be a housewife and have kids. Then, once I got to college and realized that there was so much more out there for me that I need to see where the ceiling is. And I kept going,” said Gayle. “I was an orientation leader, then I got into sports broadcast, and then I went into Miss Southeastern and then Miss Louisiana. I realized the ceiling doesn’t stop unless I want it to.”