The Miss Amazing pageant made its debut in Alaska last weekend at Dimond High School. Six contestants participated in this event created specifically for girls and women with physical and intellectual disabilities.
Part of a national pageant program, Miss Amazing is open to girls and women age 5 and up. All that is needed to enter is documentation of disability and an entrance fee of five cans of food for the community. Anchorage contestants experience a range of disabilities, from fetal alcohol syndrome and epilepsy to Down syndrome and autism. There's a Rising Star division for girls ages 5 to 9, designed to give younger entrants a feel for what pageants are all about. Then there are six different age divisions, as well as Shooting Star division for ages 36 and above.
The pageant has several areas of competition: an interview with judges, introduction to the participants, talent show, and evening wear walk. The categories are intended to develop social interaction skills and boost self-confidence. Participants are judged on opportunities taken during the event to use as tools for self-improvement.
Many of the contestants had never performed in front of a group before, and keeping focused was a challenge. But all were excited to have their hair and makeup done, and to parade their finest evening gowns.
Contestant Bianca Pagel-Miller, age 9, was most excited about the evening wear portion of the night. "Dressing up is so much fun! And I'll be so pretty," she said, although she added that she was nervous about "looking at all of the people." Rami Pagel, Bianca's mom, was excited and anxious as well.
"This will be the first time she's in the spotlight by herself," Pagel said. "So I'm a little nervous about what's going to come out of her mouth. With Bianca you never know what you're going to get, so tonight should be a hoot."
Pageant officials said all the Miss Amazing contestants are made to feel like winners, each receiving a trophy. Top-scoring "queens" from each division win a trophy and a sash and continue on to the national pageant, where they will compete against contestants from more than 30 other states.