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Miss Nederland Lilei Shipley ready for crown, community responsibility

Lilei Shipley has probably attended the Nederland Heritage Festival every year of her life.

She has kept all of her passports through the years, joking “I have all of my ugly pictures.”

It’s been 18 years of fun with some of her fondest memories about “eating the funnel cakes that none of us need, but all of us want.”

Yet, the 2020 festival will be different for the Nederland High School senior and co-head cheerleader.

She is this year’s Miss Nederland, and Lilei knows it’s a crown and honor worth respecting.

Lilei acknowledges there are a lot of big shoes to fill when considering the names of previous Miss Nederland titleholders.

“They are all wonderful girls and people who I have looked up to since I was little,” she said. “You see them in the parades and doing things around town. They visit schools. Everybody wants to be Miss Nederland. I am really excited about it and looking forward to doing all those things.”

Nederland Heritage Festival Executive Director Shannon Hemby said she was “super excited” when it was announced Lilei would be Miss Nederland.

“The Miss Nederlands are kind of like a family,” Hemby said. “Once you become Miss Nederland, you are in that reigning family forever. (Lilei) is one of those people that is just as beautiful on the inside as she is on the outside. She has a very giving heart and is an amazing young lady.”

Lilei has been participating in pageants for almost 10 years, noting this was her last year with the Nederland Pageant and she was glad to spend it with the other contestants.

“We all knew each other and had a lot of fun with it,” she said. “We were definitely a good group to come through. It still doesn’t feel real. All the girls I walked out there with were amazing. I’m extremely blessed and glad all of my hard work paid off. I’m excited to represent the community of Nederland.”

Lilei is a fixture at Nederland High sporting events as a cheerleader, saying the pursuit has been her passion for many years.

She recently helped lead her squad to UIL competition, a first for the school.

“We took home 14th place, so it was a really big deal,” she said. “With football season and basketball season, cheerleading definitely consumes a big portion of my life, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Lilei plans on attending the University of Mississippi in the fall to pursue a law degree and become a criminal attorney.

She would ultimately like to return to Jefferson County and start her own practice.

“My mom is an attorney in Beaumont, and ever since I was little, I have always watched her in the courtroom,” Lilei said. “She has inspired me to go to law school. I feel that is where my passion is.

“I took a trip to Ole Miss a couple of years ago to tour the school and go to a game. I absolutely fell in love with the school. It is beautiful. I’m excited about attending in the fall.”