Traditionally a beauty pageant and scholarship program, the Miss America pageant has brought disability issues into the spotlight over the past couple of years. Most recently, in 2012 and 2013 two contestants ran with disability platforms from Iowa and Montana. Meet Nicole Kelly, 2013 Miss Iowa and Alexis Wineman, 2012 Miss Montana.
At first glance, Nicole Kelly, Miss Iowa, strikes onlookers as a beautiful, young woman and pageant contestant, representing her home state of Iowa. Admirers however will quickly notice that Nicole was born without her left forearm. She represented the State of Iowa in the 2013 Miss America pageant, running with her platform “Overcoming Disability.”
Through her profile on missiowa.com, Nicole explains her struggles with stares from strangers and overcoming common questions from the public about what happened to her arm. She turned her struggles into a platform to help others overcome their disability and entered the pageant scene to take her disability to the stage, showing others that her disability is nothing to hide or anything that she has to explain. A Broadway hopeful, Nicole is proud to display her disability on a public stage!
In a recent article from September, featured on the Huffington Post, Nicole stated her reason for taking her disability to the stage, "I'm proud to represent those who look differently, but it's about what you can do and how you celebrate it," she said. "I'm just like you."
Though Nicole did not win the Miss America crown in September, Nicole continues her duties as Miss Iowa, spreading awareness and support for the disability community.
Another pageant contestant who helped paved the way for disability platforms on the national pageant stage was Alexis Wineman. Wineman was diagnosed with autism at a young age and competed in Miss America 2012 representing her home state of Montana.
In an article from disabilityscoop.com Wineman explains that growing up, she never felt like she quite fit in which led her to her core reason for competing: “I say why fit in when you were born to stand out.” Wineman was the first Miss America contestant with autism.
The last Miss America with a disability was Miss Alabama in 1995 who had a hearing impairment.
To learn more about 2013 Miss Iowa Nicole Kelly, check out the Miss Iowa Scholarship Pageant Facebook page.
To read more about 2012 Miss Montana Alexis Wineman, check out this http:/en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexis_Wineman">website.
What do you think about Miss America contestants bringing attention to disability issues and spotlighting their disabilities? Tell us what you think and share your opinion in the comments!
Photo courtesy of HuffingtonPost