Gloria Fisher never thought pageant competitions were for people like her, so when the Crystal Lake woman found out there was a pageant-style program made for adults with disabilities, she was ready to sign up.
Fisher, now 29, became interested in the world of pageants when she was at St. Charles North High School after watching TLC network’s “Toddlers and Tiaras” about young girls competing in pageants.
“I started getting interested in pageants from that show, but I didn’t think there was anything out there for adults with special needs,” Fisher said from her independent-living group home in Crystal Lake.
She finally got her chance in April, when she was named Miss Amazing Illinois in the Senior Miss Division.
She, her mother and a friend will travel to Nashville, Tennessee, to compete at the national Miss Amazing Summit on July 28. Between transportation, hotels and meals, the trip will cost them close to $3,000.
Miss Amazing provides “opportunities for girls and women with disabilities to consider their goals, step outside of their comfort zones and build networks of support,” according to the group’s website.
During state events held across the country, the women and girls ages 5 and older participate in an interview with judges, give a short performance of a pastime or hobby, and introduce themselves onstage to the audience.
To be a Miss Amazing contestant, they must have an individualized education program, individualized plan for placement or be on Social Security insurance as an adult.
Fisher learned about Miss Amazing when she was in high school. Shortly before moving into her independent-living home in 2019, she looked it up online again.
She was ready to compete, but there wasn’t enough time to prepare, Fisher said. Then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and the idea was shelved for two years.
Last year, Fisher received a letter from one of the event’s organizers asking her to apply again. This time around, Fisher was determined to compete.
“I begged everyone that I had to do it,” Fisher said.
Her mom, Yvet Fernandez of South Elgin, admitted that she didn’t know what they were getting into, but she agreed to drive her daughter to Naperville for the spring competition.
“I had no idea,” Fernandez said. “ ‘I will just go to be the ride.’ I knew, sure, it was kind of like a talent pageant show of some sort … never thinking that she would place and go on to Nashville.”
What she did know is that when her daughter sets her mind to do something, she’s determined and will not let anything stop her, Fernandez said.
“She is always on the go, always wants to do this or that. I have to put reins on her. We can’t do all of that,” her mom said.
Fisher keeps both of them busy. She has a job two days a week and participates in both the Special Olympics and the Northern Illinois Special Recreation Association’s programs for adults.
But getting on stage and performing her hand-held hula hoop routine went beyond all those other activities, Fisher said.
“It is a nice confidence booster. For most people, a lot of them don’t think they are worth anything or they won’t amount to anything or they are not special enough to be able to do something fancy like this,” Fisher said.
The Miss Amazing program doesn’t care about a woman’s shape, color or disability, Fisher said.
“There is no judgment. They don’t judge you on your looks or attitude,” she said. “They took into consideration the disability of the person they had.”
Fisher, her mother and her friend plan to leave for Nashville a few days early to allow Fisher time to acclimate, her mother said. They also are asking for donations to cover the cost of the trip.
Regardless of how she performs at the national event, Fisher wants girls and women to learn about Miss Amazing, she said.
“I am actually making this organization more known up here in this area. Nobody knows about it,” Fisher said.
She’s gone back to her high school to tell the students there about Miss Amazing and tells everyone at her sports programs that they should do it too.
Fernandez has seen the confidence boost Miss Amazing has helped give her daughter.
It has given her “leadership skills and a sense of accomplishment that she can do things,” Fernandez said.
To donate to the fundraising campaign, visit saq2022.funraise.org/fundraiser/gloria-fisher.
Source: The Daily Chronicle
Be First to Comment