Inclusive Pageant Spotlights Girls of All Abilities

By Christina Elston

inclusive L.A.

A volunteer escorts a California Miss Amazing contestant in the formalwear portion of the competition. PHOTO COURTESY CALIFORNIA MISS AMAZING

Many girls dream of wearing a crown and being “queen” for a day, and the California Miss Amazing pageant gives girls of all abilities that chance. The day includes all the usual pageant pomp, from formalwear and interviews to tiaras and trophies, but the beauty here is more than skin deep.

“One of the main impacts of the program is [for the girls] to realize their potential,” says Miss Amazing California State Director Jordan Fowler. “We want girls to feel empowered to take their goals and dreams out there.”

Participation is open to girls and women ages 5 and up with federal- or state-issued proof of disability. Core divisions, open to ages 10-35, include pre-teen, junior teen, teen, junior miss, miss and senior miss. Rising Stars for ages 5-9 and Shooting Stars for ages 36 and up expand the pageant’s reach.

The fun begins before pageant day when participants are paired with their pageant buddies. These volunteers are there to share pageant day with participants and support them during the activities. Parents are encouraged to drop their girls off in the morning, and return for the final show in the afternoon.

In past years, participants and buddies only got together on the day of the pageant, but this year California Miss Amazing is taking the program to a new level. They have paired participants and buddies well in advance, based on common interests. The idea is to foster lasting friendships between pageant contestants and their buddies. Pairs will be able to chat by phone before pageant day, and buddies will be able to attend gown fittings with participants.

Speaking of gowns, there’s a new development there as well. In past years, pageant participants had to supply their own formalwear. But this year, thanks to a partnership with The Princess Project Los Angeles, all dresses, shoes and accessories will be provided. “Every girl who’s participating in the program is getting fitted for her dream gown,” Fowler says. And because the gowns are donated, participation in California Miss Amazing is now free. Contestants are asked only to bring a donation of five cans of food with them to the pageant.

Pageant day starts with registration, fun gift bags and an orientation dance party. Participants next have their hair and makeup done – with all beauty products and services donated. “They really get the full treatment,” says Fowler.

Next comes the optional talent show, where girls get to show off their skills. They can sing, dance, read poetry or showcase any other talent of their choice, just for fun.

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Miss Amazing participants model their tiaras and trophies. PHOTO COURTESY CALIFORNIA MISS AMAZING

In the afternoon, contestants have one-on-one interviews with the judges. This is their chance to share a little bit about themselves and their hopes and dreams, in any way they’d like. Girls who are not verbal can write their responses or have someone facilitate for them. “It’s a good chance to practice communication skills, however that communication happens,” Fowler says, adding the atmosphere is friendly and supportive, with “no tricky questions.”

After lunch, participants practice for their introductions on stage, and for the formalwear portion of the final show. “This is where we really put our male volunteers to use,” says Fowler, explaining that volunteers of all abilities escort the girls on stage in their gowns.

The day ends with the final show, where each participant is introduced, tells a little about herself and shows off her formalwear. And after that come the awards. One finalist in each age division is crowned and will go on to participate in the national Miss Amazing competition to be held in Chicago in July. But every single girl who participates in California Miss Amazing is awarded a trophy and crown to recognize her achievement in participating.

The California Miss Amazing 2017 pageant will take place March 25 in the Grand Ballroom at USC. The talent show (1:15-2:15 p.m.) is free to watch, and admission to the final show (3-5 p.m.) requires purchase of a $15 raffle ticket. Fowler says there are some great raffle prizes lined up, and proceeds benefit the Miss Amazing program.

The pageant is also still seeking half-day and full-day volunteers to participate in this year’s program. The California Miss Amazing website, ca.missamazing.org, has information on those opportunities, and details for girls who would like to be contestants next year.

Meanwhile, for aspiring Miss Amazings, Fowler says: “Come and watch this year and see what it’s like.”

 

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