|Born||1998/1999 (age 22–23)|
Music minister, music teacher, pageant contestant
|Humorous online commentary|
Leah Ann Boyd is an American music minister and teacher, pageant contestant, and social media personality from Madison, Alabama. Boyd became an internet celebrity in 2020 after her pseudonymous, and initially anonymous, Twitter account, Sassy Seminary Student, rapidly gained popularity for its satire and humor. She holds a bachelor in music education from Mississippi State University and is currently enrolled at Baylor University for a Master of Music and Baylor's George W. Truett Theological Seminary for a Master of Divinity. Her internet fame has been praised for adding humor to tense online debate, making connections across theological divides, and providing an example of how contemporary female seminarians can make spaces for themselves in a conservative Christian environment that is prejudiced against, and institutionally restrictive of, women. She won the 2020 Miss Mississippi State University competition and finished in the Top 10 of the 2019 and 2021 Miss Mississippi competitions.
Education and work
Boyd's parents relocated to Madison, Alabama, because of the quality of its school system. Boyd's pursuit of music began during middle school, when in 7th grade she joined a choir and in 8th grade when she performed in a school musical. She then went to school at Bob Jones High School in Madison, Alabama, and in 2015 she was selected as alternate for Most Outstanding Female Choir Student in her school district. She was a member of the All State Chorus, Tri-M Music Honor Society, and National Honor Society, and received both local and state-wide awards for piano. She also studied jazz and tap dance.
In 2016, she enrolled at Mississippi State University and graduated in 2020 with a Bachelor of Music Education, concentrating in voice and piano. Boyd had originally aspired to become a professional opera singer, but her interests also included church music and she sought to bring more attention to the theology of church songs. She found work as a music minister at First Baptist Church in Valley Mills, Texas, and enrolled at Baylor University and Truett Theological Seminary in Waco, Texas, to pursue a double degree of a Master of Music in church music and a Master of Divinity. Her scholarship has included research on Herman Bavinck, the role of hymnody in shaping the spirituality of a community, and whether or not drums should be used by a church congregation. She also works as a music teacher.
Humorous Twitter account
In February 2020, Boyd launched an anonymous Twitter account called "Sassy Seminary Student" with the intention of bringing humor to online debates. According to Boyd, "Christian Twitter can be very bitter and angry, and so I try to make things humorous, though there might be a larger point I’m trying to make as well." Through the account, she reflected on and satirized theology, evangelical culture, gender dynamics, politics, and contemporary worship. After only a few months of activity from the account, a friend recognized Boyd as the owner of the account and Boyd subsequently made her real name public on the account. As of June 11, 2021, Boyd's account garnered about 17,000 followers.
Kaitlyn Schiess, who profiled Boyd in Christianity Today, the historian Beth Allison Barr, and the author Hannah Anderson held up Boyd as an example of how contemporary female theology scholars will find methods of making themselves heard despite sexism and the institutional restrictions on female roles in conservative Christianity. The pastor and author Eric Schumacher praised Boyd for making personal connections across theological debates which frequently depersonalize online participants. Anderson and Barr, along with the comedy writer Ben Fort, have also praised Boyd for interjecting humor into online theological debates, which are otherwise frequently tense and angry. Conversely, some women have criticized Boyd for not taking the problems within conservative Christianity seriously enough. Fort noted that Christians are generally uncomfortable invoking humor to address serious topics, and opined that Boyd's jokes express a hope that the mistreatment of women will be undone. Boyd and Anderson likewise opined that Christians often are uncomfortable using humor. Anderson added that because women struggle to be taken seriously in ministry, they have avoided humor, but Boyd might indicate a change in conservative Christianity. While Boyd says she has not encountered sexism or "weirdness around women" at Baylor, she has encountered a lot of it online, particularly from fellow members of the Southern Baptist Convention to which she belongs. One pastor tweeted that sassiness is not a desirable quality in a wife, which resulted in numerous tweets, both supportive and critical, about Boyd and her account. On June 7, 2021, in the midst of debate over sexual abuse allegations within the Southern Baptist Convention, Boyd shared that she also was a victim of rape. She hoped that sharing her story would support other sexual abuse survivors within the denomination as well as highlight the prevalence of such abuse in the church and the failure of church leaders to seek justice for these survivors. After the 2021 annual meeting in mid-June, in which the more moderate wing of the SBC fended off what The Economist described as a "right-wing insurgency", The Economist wrote that the victory of the moderates might help halt the decline in SBC membership, especially of young people, which is fueled in part by the denomination's approach to social issues. Boyd commented to the magazine that "either the Southern Baptist Convention rectifies the ways that it has hurt people.. .or I think that more young people like myself will find new avenues to pursue ministry and denominational affiliations. They told us to read our Bibles and so we did and then we all became... very social justice-minded."
In 2018, Boyd competed for Miss Mississippi State University 2019 and finished 3rd runner-up. She competed once again in 2019 for Miss Mississippi State University 2020, this time winning the competition. She then competed as Miss Greenville in the preliminaries for 2019 Miss Mississippi, in which she finished in the Top 10. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 Miss Mississippi competition was postponed. For the 2021 competition, many 2019 competitors retained their titles, including Boyd with her Miss Mississippi State University 2020 title. She finished the 2021 Miss Mississippi competition in the Top 10.
- Schiess, Kaitlyn (June 11, 2021). "For Popular Twitter Seminarian, Sassiness Is a Spiritual Gift". Christianity Today. Retrieved 2021-07-05. Unknown parameter
- "Leah Boyd". The Madison Record. 2015. Retrieved 2021-07-05. Unknown parameter
- Boyd, Leah. "Bio". Leah Boyd. Retrieved 2021-07-05. Unknown parameter
- Wade, Maggie (June 21, 2021). "Miss Mississippi competition week underway; judges' interviews held Monday morning". WLOX. Retrieved 2021-07-05. Unknown parameter
|url-status=ignored (help); Wade, Maggie (June 23, 2021). "Miss Mississippi leads the nation in scholarship awards for candidates". MSN. Retrieved 2021-07-05. Unknown parameter
|url-status=ignored (help); Wade, Maggie. "Miss Mississippi: Candidates embrace theme Bold, Brave, Beautiful". WLBT. Retrieved 2021-07-05. Unknown parameter
- "America's largest Protestant denomination holds off an insurgency". The Economist. 2021-06-17. ISSN 0013-0613. Retrieved 2021-07-10.
- "Hannah Oliver crowned Miss Mississippi State University". Mississippi State University. 2018-09-24. Retrieved 2021-07-05. Unknown parameter
- "Leah Boyd crowned Miss Mississippi State University". Mississippi State University. 2019-09-30. Retrieved 2021-07-05. Unknown parameter
- "2019 Miss Mississippi Contestants: Gallery". Daily American. June 17, 2019. Retrieved 2021-07-05. Unknown parameter
- "Miss Mississippi preliminary, June 20, 2019: Gallery". Hattiesburg American. June 21, 2019. Retrieved 2021-07-05. Unknown parameter
- "Photos: Best of Miss Mississippi prelims from Friday night". The Clarion-Ledger. June 28, 2021. Retrieved 2021-07-05. Unknown parameter
- Kay, Christana (2021-06-27). "Miss Golden Triangle Holly Brand wins Miss Mississippi 2021". WAPT. Retrieved 2021-07-05. Unknown parameter
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