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Deaf Community: Pageants
For a more recent article, see: Youth Ambassador Program

Nikole DeGraw

Miss Deaf America Pageant

Every two years, the National Association of the Deaf, or NAD, holds a pageant for young women between the ages of 18 and 28. The pageant allows "young, deaf and hard of hearing women from across the United States represent their respective home state associations of the deaf and demonstrate their talents and accomplishments in a quest for the NAD Miss Deaf America title." (NAD)
The pageant was started from a vision that the late Douglas J. Burke had. "In 1966, Burke established a National Cultural Program within the NAD for the purpose of finding the hidden talents of deaf people in the visual arts." (UAD) After establishing the National Cultural Program, Burke felt like there was an aspect of the arts that had yet to be explored. That being the world of drama. With this, the Miss Deaf America Talent Pageant was made. The first Miss Deaf America Talent Pageant was held in Miami Beach, Florida, during the 1972 NAD convention. This pageant had a total of 5 contestants. Even though there were only 5 competitors, the pageant was still a popular event. In 1976, the word "talent" was taken out, so it became the Miss Deaf America Pageant. In the past ten years of the pageant, there has been between 30 to 40 participants.

The structure of the Miss Deaf America Pageant is very similar to that of the Miss America Pageant. Contestants must compete at the local and state level, before competing in the Miss Deaf America Pageant. The pageant offers contestants the opportunity to develop their personalities, self-confidence and poise, as well as to display their talents, express their opinions and share their ambitions. (NAD) Contestants are judged on community service, academic performance, knowledge of deaf culture and knowledge of current events. (Drummond, 2008) Throught the competition, each contestant is required to give a 3 minute presentation to test their ability to think on their feet and to see how they handle themselves when they are put under pressure. Each contestant is judged in 5 categories; private interview, platform presentation, talent performance, evening gown, and onstage interview. (NAD)

"The Pageant goal is to provide a fine, dignified and beautiful way to encourage young deaf and hard of hearing women to become the leaders of tomorrow." (NAD) Throughout the years, the pageant has helped many young women with self-esteem, public speaking, and many other life skills. Along with winning the pageant, the crowned Miss Deaf America gets the title for 2 years, as well as an educational scholarship. The winner also becomes the ambassador for the NAD approximately 28 million deaf and hard of hearing Americans. (NAD)

Chelsea Tobin is the current Miss Deaf America. As Miss Deaf America, Chelsea takes part in question-and-answer sessions, offers welcoming remarks at NAD events, along with various other activities that she might be asked to do. (Valnes, 2006) At the end of this year, another Miss Deaf America Pageant will be held, and another young women will take over Chelsea's crown and have the responsibilities of Miss Deaf America.


Also see: Pageants 1 | 2 | Youth Ambassador Program

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