Editor's note: Hear more of Katie's insights and advocacy work on her personal blog
On April 7th, 2018, I had the incredible opportunity to participate in the Minnesota Miss Amazing pageant.
I was lucky enough to learn about this event from a friend who became involved in the past, and had expressed that the event was an awesome experience for her and her family. I knew that the event was based upon making every participant feel as beautiful and as amazing as they all truly are, but I had no idea just how amazing the event would truly be. Miss Amazing is a state and national event that provides an opportunity for girls and young women with disabilities to build self-confidence in an encouraging and inclusive setting.
The pageant was a day-long event, consisting of an interview with judges, hair and makeup, formal attire, and an empowering showcase of each girl’s individual successes, talents, strengths and beauty. As the day progressed, I was introduced to my assigned “buddy” (as every girl was). My buddy was an able-bodied girl around my age. What really struck me was how genuinely these buddies interacted with their assigned girls.
More often than not, when people volunteer to be involved with helping the special needs community, it feels like volunteers “talk down” to the people with special needs. Sometimes, people create a barrier that really shouldn’t exist.
At the pageant, there was no barrier.
My buddy and I spent the day with each other and became closer as time went on. Having a friend to help me throughout the day made it easy for me to be at the event without my parents, and gave me a feeling of independence. It allowed me to meet and interact with people on my own level, rather than being introduced to people with my parents by my side. Before the actual pageant, I was able to meet so many people who had been involved with this event in the past, and who were close with others involved. By the end of the day, I felt like I knew everyone at least at an acquaintance level.
One of the main parts of the day was to meet with a panel of judges for an interview. In my interview, I had a friendly conversation with the judges about my involvement in advocacy, my trip to Washington, D.C. to meet with lawmakers, and my dream to attend Harvard to study law and help people with disabilities. Girls had the opportunity to prepare for the pageant getting make-up and hair styling.
When it came time for the actual pageant, all efforts were focused on complimenting every girl on how amazing she looked and should feel. As we stood in line before entering the stage, many hugs, high-fives, and smiles were exchanged.
The pageant consisted of numerous on-stage events. The evening events started with an introduction where every girl had an opportunity to introduce herself to the audience. Every girl presented her evening wear and was walked across the stage with her right-hand-man.
Talent was an optional opportunity for a girl to showcase her individual ability, from singing and dancing to, in my case, giving a speech. The event concluded with an award ceremony, in which every girl received a crown, a trophy, and flowers, and were each declared a princess.
When the emcee called my name announcing me as the Minnesota Miss Amazing Teen Queen, it felt surreal. My newly made friends congratulated me with smiles and hugs.
I am so excited to be going to National Miss Amazing in August, and I can’t wait to meet even more strong women and girls. As the 33 queens from 33 states gather in Chicago this summer, I eagerly await being immersed in this inclusive and friendly environment once again.
I am honored to represent Minnesota as a role model and hope to be an inspiration for other girls and women with disabilities.
One of the most meaningful takeaways for me from the Minnesota Miss Amazing event was that the experience provided me with more support for continuing my personal mission to be an advocate for others. Having this new experience encourages me to continue to speak up and out for myself and others with disabilities.