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Pageants and Deaf People:
Also see Pageants 1 | 3 |

Sunday, April 5, 2009
By Anne Carlson

Beauty pageants have been around for ages. From young girls to grown women participants, pageants are a contest that judges based on beauty characteristics, talents, knowledge, etc. When society thinks of these pageants, they are not normally reflected upon in a positive manner. When it comes to the deaf world there are such great resources for positive experiences. "The National Association of the Deaf (NAD), established in 1880 by deaf leaders who believed in the right of the American deaf community to use sign language, to congregate on issues important to them, and to have its interest represented at the national level" (About). Since NAD is a national association, the girls and women that may take interest in participating in pageants have access to the Miss Deaf America Pageant (MDAP).

"MDAP offers young women between the ages of 18 and 28 an opportunity to develop self-confidence as they compete to become a goodwill ambassador and spokeswoman of the NAD" (Miss). The first pageant was held in Miami beach, Florida (Miss). The pageant was established to originate deaf women from other pageant contestants (Miss). MDAP is thought of as an event to help women, as previously stated, rather than pinpoint their flaws or their exterior beauty. MDAP has broken the mold of most pageant stereotypes. "In 1976, the word "talent" was removed and it simply became known as the Miss Deaf America Pageant, following closely the structure of the Miss Deaf America Pageant" (Miss). MDAP is one of the most positive outlets for deaf women, helping to promote a bright future for the girls.

The portrayal of pageants on television and movies exhibits "catlike" qualities amongst women. The MDAP starts at the state level, then the contestants move on to the national competition. According to the Daily Sundial, when referring to the CSUN Miss Deaf Pageant, a former pageant winner says about the program, "One goal of the pageant is to teach contestants to learn about themselves, to foster independence, and to identify individual strengths and collaborative efforts" (Serrano). The article discusses the positive attributes of the pageant and how it has greatly impacted the deaf community.

While completing research on the ties between American Sign Language and the deaf community, there were an array of touching stories. The Colorado Springs Gazette ran a story about Jade Sims, 19, who was voted Miss Deaf Colorado. She had always dreamed of becoming a Miss Deaf winner. She is one of nine children, six of the nine including herself are deaf. Her victory was a great representation of her deaf family. The Colorado Association of the Deaf President talks about Jade's journey to winning, "She showcased her talents in American Sign Language. Her story was about being a leader. I strongly believe she has what it takes to be the next Miss Deaf America" (Brown). The competition is a great platform for deaf women to be recognized and declare their opinions.

MDAP is more than a beauty pageant. Personally, I don't even think it should be called a pageant. It is less of a competition and more of an exhibit for deaf women to meet and interact with one another. It is a form of discovery. Contestants admire one another rather than wanting to oust each other. Amazing women have come from the pageants and been able to share themselves with the world. I have a new found respect for the deaf community and the opportunities for those who get involved.

"About the National Association of the Deaf." 1 April 2009.
Brown, Andrea. 2006. "Dreaming up a Big Trip." The Colorado Springs Gazette.;col1
"Miss Deaf America Pageant History." 1 April 2009.
Serrano, Felicia. 2009. "The CSUN Miss Deaf Pageant." Daily Sundial.

By  Lien Nguyen, 3/26/2008

Pageants for Deaf

There are many known beauty pageants on television and in United State for young girls, boys and women today. These girls, boys and women joined pageants, such as, Miss Teen America, Miss National Teenager Pageant, Miss USA, etc. in hope to expand community services, friendships, do some charity work, win scholarships and prizes and especially win the title of Miss or Mr. Beauty Pageant of that year. But what many hearing people do not realized is that there are many deaf that would love to participate in this kind of activity. Deaf also feel that they have talent and beauty just like the others and they should be able to participate in things like the hearing. And this is why there are several different pageants for the deaf.

One pageant for the deaf that I came upon during my research is Miss Deaf America Pageant. Many hearing people, including myself, probably have never heard of Miss Deaf America Pageant before because we, as hearing, are too involved and focused in our world. However, the Miss Deaf America Pageant is a competition pageant that is offers to young deaf women between the ages of 18 and 28. This pageant gives the deaf the opportunity to develop self-confidence, as well, as to become a goodwill spokeswoman of the National Association of the Deaf. The goal of the pageant is to encourage girls and boys to be future leaders for the youth programs of the National Association of the Deaf. The Miss Deaf America Pageant begun in 1966 by a man name Douglas J. Burke. Burke's purpose of this pageant was to find hidden talents of deaf people. With his great idea, there are now many other pageants for the deaf community. There are pageants, such as, National Association of the Deaf, the Miss Deaf America Talent Pageant, the National Association Deaf, Youth Leadership Camp, the Junior NAD and the Collegiate NAD ("Miss Deaf America Pageant History").

Burke explained, that "the main objective of the Miss Deaf America Talent Pageant was…a new concept to help us elevate the image and self-concept of deaf ladies throughout the United States. This is not an ordinary contest…beauty, poise, gracefulness is desirable qualities, but the biggest point is one's cultural talent performance" ("Miss Deaf America Pageant History").

In September of 1994, 21-year-old Heather Whitestone who competed in the Miss Deaf America pageant and was crowned the "first" deaf Miss America surprised the deaf community. Heather's competition was not different from other competitions. There were no changes made due to her hearing. She won in the same way that any other contestant would have won. Whitestone clearly and verbally conveyed the messages of her platform, answered questions, looked stunning in her bathing suit and formal gown, and she also performed amazing talent. Her talent was a classical ballet dance set, in which she couldn't hear the sound of the music (Drummond).

Also in the year 2006, Chelsea Tobin who is a South Dakota native was crowned Miss Deaf America for 2006-2008 at the 2006 National Association Deaf Conference in Palm Desert, California. Tobin is very involved with different organizations that are related to disabilities, such as, the National Youth Leadership Network and Youth Leadership Forum. At the Youth Leadership Forum 2006, Tobin served as the Master of Ceremonies, and during her senior year in high school, she served as a page under her local representative for 2005 legislative session in Pierre, being the first deaf person to do so. And now Tobin is a student at Augustana College in Sioux Fall and is majoring in Deaf Education and Elementary Education ("National Association for the Deaf").

Like Heather Whitestone and Chelsea Tobin, there are many other deaf that are beautiful, smart, confident and talented. These girls and boys that are hard of hearing or deaf deserve a chance to show their great qualities in competitions, such as, beauty pageants. These pageants give deaf contestants the opportunity to compete within other people from the deaf community to become spokes men or women for deaf culture. These pageants can help the deaf to build self confidence within them and also to become a role model for other young girls and boys. Therefore, whether you are deaf or just know someone who is deaf, the Miss Deaf America Pageant is a nice way to show the deaf that anything is possible.

Work Cited

Drummond, Megan (23 January 2008) "Miss Deaf America" Retrieved 24 March 2008:

"Miss Deaf America Pageant History". Utah Association for the Deaf. 14 January 2005. Retrieved 20 March 2008:

"Miss Deaf America 2006-2008" National Association of the Deaf. Retrieved 20 March 2008


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