Miss Amazing Pageant Wants to Change Our View of Disabilities

·Assistant Editor

Miss Amazing is a non-traditional pageant for girls and women with disabilities. (Photo: Robin Derrick/Trunk Archive)

Whatever your opinion of beauty pageants may be, you will find reason to celebrate the Miss Amazing Organization, a non-traditional pageant for girls and women with disabilities ages 5 and up. This nonprofit organization, with about 30 state pageants currently, celebrates the abilities of their participants and aims to change the dialogue and stigma around individuals with disabilities. The pageant organization was founded by former Miss Nebraska Teen and current New York University senior Jordan Somer when she was just 13 years old, back in 2006. She was inspired to create the pageant after volunteering at the Special Olympics. This year, in fact, the national pageant, with about 100 participants, will take place during the Special Olympics in Los Angeles. The entire organization, which is 100 percent volunteer-run, just launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds to help bring these girls and women to the national stage. They need $15,000 to get the ball rolling.

“While the Miss Amazing pageant can be a therapeutic and empowering experience for the participants, they will have a hard time if the people don’t accept them,” Somer tells Yahoo Beauty. “We’re hoping to increase their self confidence. We really structure our model on the social model of disability—there’s nothing wrong with disabilities; it’s the way that society is structured that is the biggest disability to them.” Like any other pageant, all contestants have the opportunity to promote a platform, but contrary to what you may think, not all the platforms at Miss Amazing are about disabilities. The 2015 New York “Teen Queen,” 18-year-old Janira Obregon, who was born with cerebral palsy and spastic quad, was featured on the Malala Fund Blog for her commitment to education for all women.

While the Miss America pageant system scores based on criteria like “Lifestyle and Fitness in Swimsuit” and “On-Stage Question,” the Miss Amazing pageant scoring system is more vague. “Everyone should experience the feeling of winning, but Miss Amazing is the girl that uses her abilities and her strengths to full potential. If she falls down, she gets up. It’s very abstract, but we definitely don’t judge on physical beauty or how well a girl enunciates or her communication tactics,” Somer explains. ‘If we’d judging on anything, it would be confidence.”

There is still a beauty component to being onstage, but it’s not about competing for physical beauty. Salons and cosmeticians across the country volunteer their time to get the girls ready for the pageant. “All the girls get excited and it’s really empowering,” Somer explains. “At the same time, we let the girls know that they can do anything with hair and makeup: Straight hair or crazy ‘80s neon makeup, whatever they want and whatever makes them feel most confident.” The idea of doing what makes you feel most confident—and not how others tell you—is a lesson we could all learn from.

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From Saran Wrap to Scotch Tape: 15 Pageant Beauty Secrets

Biracial Miss Japan Ariana Miyamoto is Changing Perceptions of Beauty in Japan