Forget diversity events. Beauty pageants are where it’s at. People are quick to criticize these when-you-really-think-about-it quite bizarre faux royalty competitions, and like to say they’re unhealthy, promote unnecessary competition, and are an overdone helping of ego-centric pomp and circumstance. But I respectfully disagree.
Pageants for women with disabilities are much more than a sash and a tiara. They acknowledge what you’ve done and who you are; not how you look in a bikini. And if you get to feel like a princess while you’re at it, why not?
I’m constantly meeting women involved in this scene, from the Ms. Wheelchair America organization to Ms. Wheelchair USA. Here’s why I think disability pageants are amazing social animals that at the end of the day, truly benefit our community.
- They celebrate fierce women: Fierce, strong women are the core of feminism, and to be strong enough to get up on a stage, give a 5 minute speech, while making sure your dress and feet stay in place, remaining confident, all the while making eye-contact AND smiling; yeah, that takes an unbelievable woman. It’s not easy living the dis-life, and these pageants exalt the fierceness in every one of us.
- They give us soap boxes: Everyone loves a good parade, and everyone really loves a beauty queen. Give them what they want, and you’ll have their ear in the palm of your hand. Disability pageants give us a voice. They give women with disabilities, a minority that is under represented in the media, the best soap box we could ever ask for. Not surprisingly, pushing for an issue, whether it’s accessibility or increased employment of people with disabilities, with a crown on your head is surprisingly effective.
- They foster community: Being in a pageant from beginning to end, whether you lose or win, is a life-changing experience that brings other amazing disabled women into your life. The other entrants, the volunteers, the sponsors, all whom are passionate about disability rights, will influence you forever. Friendships, mentors are just the beginning. Where else can you meet a sassy lady in a wheelchair from Texas who can teach you the in’s and out’s of transferring in a ball gown? They bring us together, out of our homes and small towns, and introduce us to our fellow badass sisters.
Add in the endless networking opportunities and a title on a resume that can’t be beat, it’s no wonder disability pageants are more popular than ever.
Photo Credit: Chris Wolters Photography