April 6, 2009
Miss Deaf America Pageant
The Miss Deaf America Pageant (MDAP) was started about 45 years ago and
“closely follows the structure of the Miss America Pageant. Young women
between the ages of 18 and 28 and with deafness or significant hearing loss
must compete at local and state levels first” (Drummond, 2008). “The pageant
was started as a vision of the late Douglas J. Burke” (UAD). The contestants
have the opportunity to develop their stage presence, poise, ability to
handle pressure, self confidence, as well as to display their talents,
express their opinions and share their ambitions at the state and local
pageants before going on to national competition.
“The first Miss Deaf America Pageant was held during the National
Association of the Deaf (NAD) convention in Miami Beach, Florida. It became
even more popular when the pageant was held at the same time as the NAD
conference” (NAD). Initially, the MDAP only have five contestants, but has
grown tremendously over the years to between 25 and 39 participants in the
final national competition, after local and statewide eliminations.
Nowadays, the Miss Deaf America Pageant is the most popular event at the NAD
“The National Association of the Deaf guards the civil rights of 28 million
deaf and hard of hearing Americans” (UAD). The NAD is a dynamic federation
whose area of focus encompasses on a wide range of functions including youth
leadership development. “A private, non-profit organization, the NAD has
four youth related programs, the NAD Youth Leadership Camp, the Junior NAD,
the Collegiate NAD, and the Miss Deaf America Pageant (MDAP)” (UAD).
Each contest is judged in five categories: private interview, platform
presentation, talent performance, evening gown and bathing suit, and the
onstage interview. “The Pageant goal is to provide a fine, dignified and
beautiful way to encourage young deaf and hard of hearing women to become
the leaders of tomorrow” (NAD). Throughout the years, the pageant has helped
many young women with self-esteem, public speaking, and many other life
skills. The crowned Miss Deaf America gets the title for 2 years and becomes
the ambassador for the NAD. The bonds of friendship developed between the
young women during the course of the competition will last a lifetime.
“In September of 1994, 21-year-old Heather Whitestone, who had just 5%
hearing her left ear, was crowned the first deaf Miss America. She chose not
to compete in the Miss Deaf America Pageant, and overcame her challenge of
deafness, courageously competing for the title of Miss America. Heather won
the same way that other contestants win—by verbally conveying the messages
of her platform, answering questions, looking stunning in a bathing suit and
formal gown and performing a talent. The talent was a classical ballet dance
set to music that she could not hear, and she successfully completed the
dance by feeling the vibrations of the music in her body” (Drummond, 2008).
The example of how Heather could compete and win the title of first deaf
Miss America shows that anything is possible if you believe in yourself.
Time after time, history has shown that people who must overcome a challenge
usually develop strengths in other areas.
Drummond, Megan. (2008, January 23). Retrieved April 2, 2009, from Miss Deaf
America: A platform to promote the images and talents of deaf women:
(History of NAD Miss Deaf America "N.D."). Retrieved April 2, 2009, from
History of NAD Miss Deaf America: www.nad.org/mdahistory
(Miss Deaf America Pageant History "N.D."). Retrieved April 2, 2009, from
Miss Deaf America Pageant History: www.uad.org/mdup/mdap_history.htm
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