Monday, August 13, 2012
Welcome to my blog! I am so excited to be representing the Ms. Wheelchair Rhode Island Foundation, Ms. Wheelchair America, and my beautiful state of RI! I've just returned from the national Ms. Wheelchair America 2013 Pageant and Leadership Institute and I have so many exciting and moving stories to tell.
But let us start from the beginning, shall we?
I first got involved in my state pageant in April of this year. Since then, it has been a whirlwind. I received an email from my local chapter of the Muscular Dystrophy Association (who I have been a client of for many years) reaching out to the community to see if anyone would like to participate in the Ms. Wheelchair Rhode Island pageant.
Well, there were some words I had never seen juxtaposed before. Wheelchair + Pageant. I had no idea such a thing existed. Filled with excitement, I contacted the woman who was organizing the pageant this year, Stephanie Clang. She quickly became my mentor. It was about two weeks until the pageant, so I thought maybe I was too late to enter. To my surprise and pleasure, it was not. I got everything together in a mad rush of excitement and nerves.
I filled out my application. I prepared a two minute long speech. I had to be ready for two, ten minute judging sessions and be prepared for on stage questions. Quickly, I learned that this was not your average beauty pageant. In fact, it wasn't really a beauty pageant at all. This was all about advocacy and achievement for women with disabilities and was open to any woman who used a wheelchair for 100% daily community activity from ages 21-60, married, single, divorced...Did not matter. It is about addressing the issues of people with disabilities and making a difference in our communities. It is about being a positive role-model.
Like any pageant however, we needed to come up with what they call a "platform". This is the issue that you will dedicate yourself to. Something you feel passionate about. To invoke a metaphor, it is the legs (wheels!) that you will stand on if you are chosen.
I thought of a few issues. I'm passionate about a great many things. I kept returning however, to self-esteem and body image.
It has been one of the most difficult struggles of my life and I knew I could not be alone in that. As a woman with a disability I have really struggled to not only accept my body, but appreciate it in a world that promotes a very narrow standard of beauty. I grew up never thinking I could be seen as beautiful. I walked with a waddle. I used a wheelchair. I could not dance like the pop stars in the music videos. I felt my every movement was awkward and unattractive. I had no one like myself to look up to. No beautiful, successful, confident women who just so happened to have a disability.
And that is unacceptable.
I knew my platform. It couldn't have been anything else. Not for me.
So here I am. I hope the world is ready to hear a lot from me. I'm loud, I'm passionate, and I'm not going away any time soon.