ENFIELD, Conn. — Before she was crowned Miss Amazing National, Vanessa Cleary never thought of herself as a beauty pageant competitor.
Yet the way in which Vanessa told the story of her birth mother’s struggles in Guatemala to help her with her disabilities and the positive impact her adoption had on her life helped Vanessa win over the judges last month at the Miss Amazing National pageant in Chicago where she took top honors in the junior teen division.
Next summer, Vanessa, 15, will return to the pageant to present the tiara to the new winner. In the meantime, she said she’s looking forward to telling her friends at school about the pageant so they can participate as well.
“I want everyone to have the experience I had,” Vanessa said. “It was really fun, I really enjoyed it.”
Miss Amazing is a pageant for girls and young women with learning disabilities. According to the website missamazing2017.org, in the 10 years since it began, 1,700 girls and young women with disabilities have benefited from pageants that are now held nationwide.
“It’s not prim and prissy, and the girls aren’t queens. They’re representatives,” said Morgan Packer-McCarthy, director of Miss Amazing Connecticut. “It’s a whole new culture and a whole new aspect of diversity.”
Miss Amazing was started in Omaha, Neb., in 2007 by a teenage girl, Jordan Somer, who was a volunteer for the Special Olympics at the time. Since then, Miss Amazing has expanded to over 30 states across the U.S. including Connecticut where Packer-McCarthy started the chapter three years ago.
The pageant is designed to help the girls who participate build sisterhoods, develop life skills, and increase visibility for those in the disabled community.
Packer-McCarthy has younger twin sisters who both have hereditary sensory neuropathy type 2, meaning they can’t feel their extremities. One of the twins, Allana Packer-McCarthy, wanted to participate in a pageant, but her…