CeCe Hillman, 20, is competing this week in the Miss Mississippi pageant in Vicksburg as Miss Heart of the South.

The daughter of Tommy and Bobbie Kay Waddell and Greg Hillman, she competed in the interview part of the pageant Tuesday tonight. Today, she will take the stage in the swimsuit competition. Thursday night she will sing Mercy by Duffy in the talent competition. The evening gown competition will be Friday night with the finals on Saturday when a winner will be crowned.

The pageant begins nightly at 8 p.m. in the Vicksburg Convention Center.

Hillman's platform is: "Invisible Illness Awareness and Support, It Matters."

"Imagine waking up sick, not knowing that your whole life has changed forever," she said. "In Jan. 2012, I thought I was coming down with the flu, but I soon found myself in the hospital with doctors unable to diagnose my illness. By the time I was diagnosed, a wheelchair was my closest companion. After months of testing, I was finally diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), a form of Dysautonomia. My own experience led me to develop a platform of raising awareness and supporting those suffering from invisible illness. Half of all Americans have a chronic illness; of those 96 percent suffer from invisible illnesses. According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services, 133 million Americans have a chronic condition."

Hillman is majoring in psychology at Mississippi State University, where she, in scholastic honors, is ranked number 1 out of the 2,734 MSU sophomore class for fall 2013.

She is on the President's List. She received the "Lamp of Knowledge" from Delta Gamma social sorority for maintaining a 4.0 GPA. She is a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and Gamma Beta Phi society.

She plans to further her education by obtaining a PhD in order to reach her career goal as a clinical psychologist.

A vocalist, Hillman loves all different genres of music.

"I have to say my favorite is country because each song always tells a story," she said. "However, as long as a song depicts a relatable emotion, I love it."

Hillman also enjoys romantic comedies, SEC baseball, the MSU Bulldogs and vacationing each summer with her family in Gulf Shores, Ala.

"Even though this is not far away, it is my favorite place to relax and catch up with my extended family that I do not see often," she said.

If crowned Miss Mississippi, Hillman said she would be an ambassador for those suffering with an invisible illness.

"I want to give invisible illnesses a face and place in our society," she said.

The pageant will be televised Saturday night. Check your local listings.

Tickets for the pageant are $30 for Wednesday and Thursday; $40 for Friday and $5 for Saturday.

For more information call 601-638-6746 or go to missmiss@wave2lan.com.