Woman Makes History by Being Miss World’s First Wheelchair-Bound Contestant

Marie Claire Dorking
A wheelchair bound woman is smashing stereotypes and competing in Miss World Australia [Photo: Instagram/@sashandcrown]
She’s smashing stereotypes by competing in Miss World Australia. (Photo: Instagram/@sashandcrown)

Often invoking the image of evening gown-clad women lined up with long hair, perfect white teeth, and legs for days, beauty pageants aren’t normally considered a place for differences to shine. Slowly but surely, though, things are changing and a positive movement has emerged, encouraging the idea that all bodies are beautiful.

And never was that more apparent than this weekend, when contestant Justine Clark became the first Australian woman in a wheelchair to compete in the Miss World Australia contest.

The 26-year-old was taking part in the state’s final in Adelaide and was determined to prove that pageants could and should be an accepting place for all women.

“I want the catwalk to be a fair and inclusive place for everyone,” she told the Advertiser.

“A wheelchair does not define me or limit me. I can still be strong, feminine, and beautiful.”

Justine has been in a wheelchair for two years but has not yet opened up about the circumstances surrounding her disability.

“I don’t really want to go into what happened, but I want to be a role model and empower young women,” she said.

As part of the competition’s ‘Beauty With a Purpose’ movement, Justine was keen to help inspire others and spread an empowering message about body positivity.

“For somebody in a wheelchair to be able to compete is a big thing. I really hope it sends a message that no matter what your race, size, or disability — whatever makes you different — you are beautiful.”

Justine may be the first Miss World contestant in a wheelchair, but she is not the first person in a wheelchair to compete in pageants. Nila Morton, who is Miss Mauldin Teen USA, just competed in the Miss South Carolina Teen pageant and brought home the title Miss Congeniality. She was also recently named Miss South Carolina National Teenager and works to raise awareness for her rare form of muscular dystrophy.

Miss World National Director Deborah Miller said Justine Clark’s involvement in the pageant was proof that “beauty comes in all forms.”

“I think Justine is incredibly inspirational, actually, and she really embodies what Miss World is all about,” she said.

Though she didn’t make it through to the next stage of the competition, Justine hopes to continue working with the children’s charity Variety, which the pageant supports, and smashing down stereotypes in the process.

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