Every year over 140 hopeful young girls and women from across America come together for one very special event: the national Miss Amazing Pageant, for girls with physical or learning disabilities.
[NOTE: Due to copyrights, the full film will be removed on March 23.]
Miss Amazing is a national movement led for and by girls and women with disabilities. The first Miss Amazing event was held in 2007 and today around 1500 girls and women participate in events across the US every year. Participants must have a physical or intellectual disability to be a contestant in Miss Amazing.
Miss Amazing is different from other beauty pageants that highlight society’s beauty norms. According to Miss Amazing’s founder Jordan Somer, “While the definition of beauty has historically been very narrow, I think we've seen that ideas about beauty can change when they are questioned. That's exactly what the girls and women in Miss Amazing are doing - they're working to dispel stereotypes and to push back against every limit that society advertently and inadvertently places on them. Because of the work our participants have done, I think more and more people are coming to see and understand the diverse manifestations of beauty, intelligence, kindness, ambition, and so much more.”
The Miss Amazing Pageant also has a talent section where participants can sing, dance or play an instrument. While this section is optional, usually every participant wants to be on stage and perform. This provides opportunities for girls and women with disabilities to build self-confidence in a supportive environment. “Miss Amazing primarily focuses on teaching self-advocacy skills to our participants and coaches them on using those skills to speak up for themselves and for others. It's through this skill development process that our participants are encouraged to reflect on their experiences, own their stories, and to set ambitious goals for their future,” says Somer.
For people with disabilities, it’s often hard to find friends and build relationships. Miss Amazing provides a place where girls and women with disabilities can socialize and build lasting friendships. As Somer explains, “Miss Amazing is a place where differences are celebrated. In our programs, participants find a sisterhood of ambitious girls and women, many of whom have also faced obstacles like bullying and social stigma in their everyday lives. Throughout the year, they find ways to stay in touch and to continue the environment of support that is created at the annual event.”
While the national pageant is held once a year, local chapters hold smaller community events throughout the year like holiday parties, father-daughter dances and other fun get-togethers. Therefore the social support and integration of girls continues throughout the year. “Around 160 girls and women are chosen at our annual local events to represent the organization for a year. During that year, they receive support in setting personal advocacy missions and fighting for issues that are important to them and other girls and women with disabilities,” says Somer.
17 -year old Abigail Manery is one of Miss Amazing contestants and she hopes to be the first Idaho representative to ever win the Miss Amazing pageant. We follow her journey as she prepares for and travels to the national finals in Chicago and eagerly awaits not only the chance to compete for a crown and trophy, but also the opportunity to find what she has been looking for her whole life: a real friend.
Storyteller airs every Sunday at 1800 GMT. Live stream: https://bit.ly/2LDmffl