The mission is in the name — the Miss & Mister Abilities pageant.
An event new to Southwest Virginia is redefining what it means to have special needs and spotlighting the “ability” in “disability”.
The idea was inspired by founder, Jessi Edwards’ oldest daughter’s dream to be the first Miss America with Autism. The first pageant took place in 2015 in Winchester, Virginia. Six years later it is expanding to multiple regions including Southwest Virginia. It’s been two years in the making and now that it’s official Miss & Mister Abilities SWVA coordinator Cynthia Groseclose is excited.
“It’s a chance for them to be part of the community to do things they may not have had a chance to do before and to actually showcase their abilities so I’m really glad because people don’t understand how much these kids have,” said Groseclose.
Here’s how it works. Due to the pandemic it will be virtual on October 23rd. Contestants will record their runway walk, their talent which would be something they’re good at like dancing, painting, even spelling. There’s also an interview portion.
The pageant is for kids and adults with disabilities. The youngest category is 4 to 6 years old and the oldest is ages 36 and up.
Anna Yanc, a Virginia preschool teacher has been part of the Miss Abilities Organization since 2017, was a queen in 2019 and is now an ambassador. She encourages every contestant to recognize their special needs as special gifts.
“I want them to know that they are good enough, that 100% they are capable of whatever they set their mind to and whatever abilities they can do,” said Yanc
Registration is now available here. The virtual event is October 23rd but the deadline to enter is September 10th. They are only taking 45 contestants.
The goal is to expand the pageant to surrounding states but until that happens Miss and Mister Abilities SWVA is open to those in Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina and Southern West Virginia.