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Ten-year-old Brianna Heim poses elegantly for the camera, a bedazzled sash ornamenting her beautiful purple dress. The tiara on Brianna’s head is nearly as bright at the cheerful smile on her face. Sitting close by is Brianna’s service dog Emily, who recently accompanied her on a special trip to Los Angeles to compete in Miss Amazing, a pageant designed for girls and women with special needs.

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Earlier this year, Brianna won the title of Miss Preteen in Utah’s regional Miss Amazing Competition. Brianna, who lives with a speech and motor-skill imparing disorder called glutaric acidemia type 1, attended the National pageant where she participated in the weekend’s activities, including a talent portion, interviews, and an evening gown walk.

Brianna even got to witness the opening ceremony for the 2015 Special Olympics, held in Los Angeles that same weekend. Brianna’s mom says, “(The pageant) is a nice place for these girls to go and be themselves and it doesn’t matter what your disability is.”

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The Miss Amazing Pageant was founded in 2007 by Jordan Somer in Omaha, Nebraska. Now, eight years later, the program has impacted more than 800 girls and women with disabilities all over the nation. Somer explains that Miss Amazing is designed to help young women see their unique capabilities and celebrate their individuality.

Jordan Somer says: “According to a study conducted by The Center for Women Policy Studies, disabled women and girls live at the corner of disability and womanhood. With two minority identities, a double dose of discrimination and stereotyping, and multiple barriers to achieving their life goals. Miss Amazing is looking to change that fact.”

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Several promotional videos on Miss Amazing’s website highlight the joyful energy of the women who participate in this event. They dance, perform on instruments, bond with friends, and are given a platform to articulate their thoughts and to express themselves. These ladies tear up as they are handed trophies, and wave happily as crowns are placed on their heads.

Somers states: “The Miss Amazing Pageants are inspiring a culture that encourages women and people with disabilities to reach their fullest potential.” It’s clear that this is the case when one looks at girls like Brianna and young women like Mikayla Holmgren, individuals who truly are embracing their identity and thriving.

 

Adrienne is a junior at George Fox University. She grew up writing stories and training in classical ballet, and now she studies English and hopes to use art and the written word to create positive change in her world.