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Miss Deaf America Pageant:

Also see: Miss Deaf America Pageant |  Pageants  | Pageants 2  |

Jennifer Healey
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 conference.
“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.

References:
Drummond, Megan. (2008, January 23). Retrieved April 2, 2009, from Miss Deaf America: A platform to promote the images and talents of deaf women: http://deafness.suite101.com/article.cfm/miss_deaf_america
(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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