HOMEWOOD, AL (WBRC) - As the week-long Miss Alabama 2017 competition got underway, first-time contestant Mary Ann McDougal's mom dropped off a gift for her—a stuffed seal.
"She wrote this long thing in the card," Mary Ann said. "It was like, "I'm sure you're wondering why I'm sending you a seal, but it's not just a seal. It's a dog mermaid Hahahaha!'"
This may seem like a silly mom gift honoring Mary Ann's title as Miss Coastal Alabama, but it was also a gift to ease the nerves of a current contestant from a woman who knows what it's like to be in her shoes.
Mary Ann is one of two contestants whose mother happens to be a former Miss Alabama.
Her mother is Miss Alabama 1991, Wendy Neuendorf McDougal.
The other contestant is Miss University of Alabama, Callie Walker. Her mother, Angela Tower Walker, was crowned Miss Alabama in 1985.
Both will compete in the last preliminary Friday night before taking the stage at Saturday night's finale at Samford University's Wright Center. Both shows start at 7 p.m. Tickets are available for purchase at the venue's box office.
Callie says that even though being the daughter of a titleholder comes with pressure, she says she's following her mother's advice to not get too worked up about the competition.
"I think there's a sense of pressure that's put on us to be successful because our moms are so successful. For me, I just want to do the best I can do to make my mark as a part of the Miss Alabama organization, no matter if I go home with a crown or nothing," she said.
Mary Ann says that her mother gave her similar advice.
"She always just talked about through the highs and the lows and the ups and the downs, you have to remember that it's all about the journey," she said. "It's what you make of the journey, not necessarily the outcome."
"I've never been the mom to push her to do this," said Wendy. "This is not about me. I love sitting back and just being her mom and just watching her shine."
Callie's mother not only gives her advice. She's also her dance teacher and choreographed the dance that Callie performed to win the talent preliminary Thursday night. For her part, Angela says she will be dancing right along with her daughter in the audience.
"It's quite a rollercoaster ride if you're sitting near me, let's just say that," she said. "I think I try to do every step with her in my heart and soul."
Both mothers agree that some of the aspects of the competition have changed since their time on the stage. Some categories matter more than others now. But, they both agree that the essence of the pageant has stayed the same throughout the years.
"It's got such a rich tradition and each girl who goes through the system breathes a little of herself into it," she said. "I love that Miss America has stayed true to its roots as far as scholarship, and service and just giving back to your community."
The winner of Miss Alabama 2017 will be announced Saturday night.