yoocan - Emilee S - Pageantry and Disability: Promoting Disability Awareness

Pageantry and Disability: Promoting Disability Awareness

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Emilee S

My New Title

If you haven't met me yet, hello! My name is Emilee Schevers and I am the first ever Miss Teen Personality Ontario 2021! I recently competed in regionals for Personality Pageants Canada and won the regional title for Ontario. Now I know what you're thinking, pageants are all about beauty and no substance right? Wrong! This pageant is purely personality based. Delegates competed in 6 categories: Intro video, Outfit of Choice Walk, Social Media, Interview, Vision Challenge for the title, and Platform Speech. I had so much fun making each aspect unique to me and sharing my message.

How did I get into pageants?

I competed in my first pageant in 2019 for Miss Teenage Ontario. Let's just say that I was totally unprepared, had the flu, and it was an epic fail. After that, I hardly even considered doing another pageant. One good thing that came out of the pandemic? Virtual Pageants! The next pageants I competed in were virtual fundraiser pageants. I was a little hesitant to do them, but I wanted to gain more skills (interview, confidence, professionalism, etc.) and support some friends along the way. Shockingly enough, I placed top 5 in BOTH of them! This was a huge confidence boost and I felt so close to getting a title that I didn't want to stop there. I then competed in Miss Teen Personality Canada (national) and came 4th Runner Up, so when they announced regionals for the same pageant system, I knew I could do it!

My Platform

My platform is disability advocacy, specifically for the blind and visually impaired community. Platforms in pageantry are based on community work, taking action and creating change. Platforms should be something you are passionate about or have personal experience with. It makes it so much more impactful. The biggest component of my platform is Tru Faces, the online disability community that I started in 2018 alongside my sister. We use Tru Faces to connect individuals with disabilities, share stories, and advocate for disability issues.

Challenges I Faced and How I Overcame Them

My biggest struggle with in-person pageants was accessibility. I could not see the edges of the stage, always felt like I was squinting since it was not encouraged to wear glasses, and could not walk confidently. There were steps onto the stage, cords on the ground, and people bumping into me. I was not using my cane because it made me feel different. Virtual pageants completely changed this for me! Many people may not notice it, but virtual pageants are so much more accessible to individuals with disabilities. I was able to walk in an open space free of obstacles, use technology with accessibility software to my benefit, and I didn't have to worry about orienting myself in a new space crowded with people. Without these obstacles, I felt so much more calm and confident. AND, because of Personality Pageants' beliefs, I was able to add my own unique twists into my submissions such as using my cane in my Outfit of Choice Walk and wearing my sunglasses in my intro video, without fear of judgment for being different. In this pageant, uniqueness was embraced!

What will I do with my title?

I will use my new title to promote my platform and educate others about disabilities. I will continue to share my story and be a role model for younger girls. If I could give a piece of advice to someone with a disability who is looking to try something new, it's DO IT! I had no idea how much I would gain from these experiences and getting started was the hardest part. I am always looking to grow and learn from new experiences and I encourage others to do the same. While you do not need a title to create change, it sure has opened a lot of doors and supported me. Follow my journey as we break down barriers!

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