At the Miss Amazing pageant
The word “amazing,” meaning something that causes great surprise or wonder, is one of those terms that has become trendy, and greatly overused. Far too many things today are called “amazing,” but in the case of the Pennsylvania Miss Amazing pageant, held recently at Easton HS, the use of the adjective is entirely appropriate. The pageant is truly amazing because it provides opportunities for girls and women with disabilities to build their self-confidence and self-esteem in a supportive environment, while redefining in positive ways what it means to be beautiful.
This year, 18 girls and women from the Lehigh Valley and beyond, participated in the third annual statewide event. Contestants ranged in age from 5-9 (Rising Stars) to 36+ (Shooting Stars), and were judged in three categories: the interview; evening gowns; and talent.
A panel of three judges interviewed the contestants before the public phase to observe how the women conducted themselves. The judges – Carolyn Edwards, Linda Lechner and Rosemary Morgan – all have backgrounds working with the developmentally disabled and persons with special needs.
In the talent phase, Rising Star Rebecca Jurchak performed cheerleading and gymnastic routines to a cheering audience. At school in Exeter Township, she is an Exeter Panthers D-team cheerleader. Francesca Scarano used her eye-gaze computer to read a poem. Others lip-synched or sang over hit songs, but no matter what the talent or how good it was, the audience of friends, family and volunteers applauded just as enthusiastically for everyone. They knew the real accomplishment was just getting up on stage and trying.
Miss Amazing State Director Amy Behrend explained the reason for the interview and talent categories.
“Talking and performing before a supportive audience is a way for those with disabilities to gain poise and develop public speaking skills,” she said.
When the time came for awards everyone got a medal hung around her neck after the talent competition – the reward for participating and persevering. The final judging was more about recognition than competition, with each contestant being named either a queen, princess or shooting star. Each also was given a rhinestone crown and a bouquet of flowers in recognition of the fact that they are all amazing.
Emcee Holly Harrar, former local titleholder for the Miss America Organization, and advocate for inclusion of people with disabilities, read the names of each contestant and told something about their special qualities, hobbies, goals and ambitions. Among those introduced were the queens in each of the six divisions. They were:
• Mileena Schaffer, Hellertown, Pre-teen (age 10-12), loves to sing and dance, and hopes to work in a beauty salon to help people feel beautiful.
• Francesca Scarano, Mountaintop, Junior Teen (13-15), helps raise awareness and funds for her disease, and strives to do everything typical people do. She talks with her eyes through her computer, and touches many hearts without speaking.
• Kelsey Anthony, Northampton, Teen (16-19), takes seven dance classes and is on a competition team. She would like a job as a princess with Disney so she can keep dancing.
• Mariah Allen, Warren, Junior Miss (20-23), volunteers with children at a local school, and would like to be a reading specialist, and teach dance to girls with disabilities.
• Kimberly Lagala, Allentown, Miss (24-27), wants to be independent, and be able to go on vacations.
• Ricki Fratcelli, Allentown, 2018 Senior Miss (28-35), strives to be as independent as possible.
Pennsylvania Miss Amazing is one of 30 state divisions of Miss Amazing, Inc., a national non-profit organization dedicated to providing opportunities for girls and women with disabilities. The Miss Amazing movement was founded in Omaha, Neb., in 2007 by a then 13-year-old Jordan Somer, a former Miss Nebraska Teen winner.