“And the Winner is…” Judging Ms. Wheelchair Minnesota

My most recent blog post, if you’ve been reading my posts, was dripping with excitement about being asked to judge Ms. Wheelchair Minnesota; an honor that certainly made me proud.

Jenni Taylor, a friend of mine, Ms. Wheelchair Minnesota 2011, and a board member of Ms. Wheelchair Minnesota, needed judges, and I was a natural fit because of my writing experience on disability issues. It’s weird finally having so much experience that you’re considered an expert in your field, but I gotta say it feels pretty good (I call this life tenure. oh yes). The pageant occurred last Monday, and it was much cooler than I expected.

After hitching a ride, I had to arrive mid-afternoon for the judging of their platform issues, which in the Ms. Wheelchair pageant is the most important component.  The pageant is all about advocacy and what your platform issue will be if you win. Each contestant is required to write a 2 minute speech about their platform and present it to the judges. Let me say, I felt sorry for them. I can’t imagine how nervous they must have felt.

Although the pageant only had four contestants, it felt like the perfect amount.  Their platform issues were beautiful, from embracing diversity and showing the world everything we can do to the power of positivity and not letting a bad day stop you, these girls had some awesome ideas. And the greatest thing about this pageant is that it has nothing to do with looks.

After we judged their platform issues, we took a break for dinner, and I had the opportunity to dine with some of the contestants. Oh how I love the camaraderie of other women who use wheelchairs! Their spirits, their advice lift me up.

We discussed the hardships of working at home and being alone (and possibly living in an artists’ cooperative one day), we discussed our favorite movies, we discussed boys, and every moment I spent with them was awesome medicine for the soul.

When the actual pageant started that evening, and all the family and friends arrived, it was incredibly exciting. The contestants also had to create what’s called a “Time Board” showing their journey in life, and each told a story of hardship and overcoming it; the common thread of all women who use wheelchairs.

When it came to deciding the winner, I can’t say much, but I will say this – it was painful. Judging a Ms. Wheelchair pageant is like picking a cupcake out of a plate of your favorite cupcakes (I still say they should split crowns for each season). How do you choose?? In the end, I do believe the best woman won, but boy was it hard.

As a judge, our end goal is simple – to pick the best spokesperson, the woman we believe will best communicate her platform issue to the world. If you remember that, the winner will reveal herself quite easily.

What do you think would be difficult to judge?

Photo courtesy of Flickr CC

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