Aug 27, 2021

Joye Forrest, 2021 Miss Missouri USA

She’s ready for her close-up as The Salvation Army Midland Division’s brand ambassador for this year's Tree of Lights: Joye Forrest, a 2021 Miss Missouri USA pageant winner and former L.A. Lakers dancer.

Forrest announced her decision Aug. 20 and appeared with Salvation Army officials last weekend at the World Wide Technology Raceway outside St. Louis to meet fans and accept the Salvation Army’s mission to do the most good as people celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas and Kwanzaa later this year.

“The Salvation Army gives to so many people in so many capacities all year long,” Forrest said. “Not just kettle season. Right away, I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of.”

Forrest was selected Miss Missouri USA 2021 in May and was a L.A. Lakers dancer from 2018-19. She is a St. Louis native from a family of achievers. Her mom owns the north St. Louis Afro-centric store Afro World, which was started by her grandfather, and a brother works as a S.W.A.T. Team member in Kansas City. Her father took Joye on missionary trips to Mexico and Africa during her youth, and another brother works with the houseless in St. Louis.

Including the Kwanzaa candle-lighting in The Salvation Army’s holiday celebration this year is crucial, said Forrest, who celebrates Kwanzaa and Christmas annually with busy family. Spotlighting the African American holiday is key to her mission, in addition to The Salvation Army’s Christmas presence.

“When Black people came to America, they created Kwanzaa to help them be better versions of themselves, to save money and believe in community,” Forrest said. “Growing up, I’ve always been exposed to different backgrounds. It’s about staying together.”

Forrest said about The Salvation Army’s embracing of Kwanzaa, “We’re excited to be bringing in more diversity and more inclusivity, including the Kwanzaa candle-lighting event after Christmas.”

Forrest has donated her time for years to other charitable ventures, including the Lakers’ Hit the Streets program, to help homeless people on the streets of L.A., and her own nonprofit, Share Joye, which raises to money to help people to meet their goals.

“I want to continue giving scholarships to young, aspiring artists, but just like The Salvation Army, I want Share Joye to encompass so many things and give back to as many people as possible in different capacities,” Forrest said. “If a friend comes to me about her sister, who just lost her job and can’t pay rent, how can I be a blessing for them to pay rent for a few months and take care of their families, while she’s looking for a new job?”

The Salvation Army was ubiquitous during her childhood, Forrest said. Grocery stores like Dierbergs and Schnucks created a platform to raise donations for the holiday season. The strength of the Salvation Army’s 146-year lifespan is an admirable one to represent as a brand ambassador.

“Growing up, I saw The Salvation Army in so many different locations,” Forrest said. “They’re never afraid to go out and raise funds for people. They’re always trying to come up with new ways to get that support and keep pushing.”

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