The Miss America Pageant has a competitor that most people haven’t heard about called the Miss Amazing National Pageant. The difference is, the Miss Amazing Pageant is specifically for girls and young women with learning disabilities. The pageant has been around for ten years, and in that time over 1700 girls and young women have taken part in at least one of the nationwide events.
The current Miss Amazing National champion, Venessa Cleary, was born in Guatemala, where her mother struggled to get her the help she needed due to her disabilities, and she was eventually adopted and brought to the United States of America. Her story of triumph is what ultimately won over the judges and made Venessa the reigning Miss Amazing National until she will hand over her crown next month to a new winner. She is excited for someone else to get to wear the crown, saying, “I want everyone to have the experience I had. It was really fun, I really enjoyed it.”
Each of the thirty states the pageant takes place in has its own director of the pageant, with Morgan Packer-McCarthy serving as the head for the state of Connecticut. Morgan thinks the pageant is something really unique, describing it as, “It’s not prim and prissy, and the girls aren’t queens. It’s a whole new culture, and a whole new aspect of diversity.”
Miss Amazing was started in Nebraska by Jordan Somer, who was just a teenager at the time when she got the idea while volunteering for the Special Olympics. The pageant is a way to help the girls who take part make friendships, learn new life skills through a new experience, and above all, bring new awareness and visibility to those with disabilities, and break down ideas about what they can and can’t do.
The contestants are paired up for the entire competition with someone who acts as a buddy, and this person does not have a disability. They can choose someone who is a known friend, or they can meet someone new who has volunteered for the pageant. Everyone does activities together, such as crafts, practicing new life skills, and going through interview processes where they can each talk about their passions in life. There is also a talent show performed on the stage where each girl showcases her own talent.
For Venessa Cleary, she wanted to showcase her talent for public speaking, and that is when she told the judges of her adoption and her life in America. Venessa has taken a teen leadership course and wants to someday be a teacher, so public speaking is a very important aspect of who she is and the things she loves, and she felt very good getting a chance to not only show that off but using that to win the title. For Venessa though, she says it wasn’t about winning, it was just about getting to take part in the amazing opportunity, and she is so glad other girls will have the ongoing chance to be a part of it.