Miss Amazing Pageant celebrates women and girls with disabilities

Ally Nichols, 17, of Chesterfield gets her hair and makeup done before the Missouri Miss Amazing Pageant on Saturday, April 14, 2012 at the St. Charles Presbyterian Church. Photo by Huy Mach, hmach@post-dispatch.com

ST. CHARLES • A love of pageants and working with people with disabilities came together recently for Lindenwood University junior Ellie Lorenzen.
She organized Missouri's first Miss Amazing Pageant, an event for girls and women with disabilities held April 14 at Lindenwood.
Lorenzen, 21, has been competing in pageants for five years. Her oldest brother, Jordan, 27, is severely mentally disabled. She describes him as a prankster and full of life, but he will never be able to live on his own.
"He has really shaped my family," she said. "My brother and sister and I really live our life to the fullest knowing how much of a blessing he is."
Lorenzen, whose family is from Omaha, got involved in the Miss Amazing Pageant in Nebraska a couple years ago after her mom became a judge. The Miss Amazing Pageant is a nonprofit group that started in 2007 in Nebraska. It's geared to help participants build self-esteem, poise and confidence. The event includes an evening gown competition, talent showcase and interview.
Lorenzen's younger sister got involved, too, and she's now organizing Iowa's first Miss Amazing Pageant. The organization hopes to branch out to all 50 states and become as big as the Special Olympics.
In December, Lorenzen set the date and got the venue at Lindenwood for the pageant. She hoped to start small by offering a competition for 16 girls and women. But word spread quickly, and soon 48 participants ages 7 to 56 signed up. Most came from the St. Louis area, but others traveled from throughout the state. To enroll in the pageant, members had to donate five cans of food which will be given to an area food pantry. Audience members were asked for a $10 donation at the door. "Queens" from each age division were selected and all participants got a crown and a trophy.
Lorenzen, who is studying fashion design, juggled a full course load, an internship and a part-time job with setting up the pageant. The past months have been a flurry of organizing volunteers, raising money, recruiting "buddies" to mentor pageant participants and getting donations for hair and makeup services.
Twelve-year-old Maria Fernandez of O'Fallon, Mo., was crowned queen of the pre-teen division. Her mother, Julie, said her daughter loved the dress and jewelry shopping before the event and was "over the moon" about winning.
Julie and Sergio Fernandez said they felt good about leaving their daughter for the afternoon of pampering and rehearsals with an army of volunteers before the pageant.
"It's nice to have all these people who are interested and care about our kids." Julie Fernandez said.
"It was awesome," Maria said. "When they called my name, it was like, oh, my gosh. I was not thinking that they were going to call my name."
Despite the hard work, Lorenzen said, the event was worth it and she looks forward to organizing it next year.
"Everyone in the audience was either smiling the whole night or either crying or laughing," she said. "I think every girl should get an opportunity to feel beautiful and important."

SOURCE: St. Louis Today, 4/22/2012

***Pageants for young girls and women with disabilities are increasingly becoming popular in the United States. It's only a matter of time when the Miss Universe Organization will allow disabled contestants to compete in Miss USA, Miss Teen USA and Miss Universe pageants. Wouldn't it be interesting to see a disabled transwoman win any of the crowns someday?

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