By Maria Tricoli
November 28, 2008
Miss Deaf America Pageant
In 1966, Douglas Burke came up with the very first American talent Pageant
for the deaf. Originally Burke simply wanted to reveal and express the
talents in both visual and performing arts in the deaf community. This
program, with the help of the National Association of the Deaf, was referred
to as the National Cultural Program. This program created state contests
that were incredibly successful and received exceedingly positive feedback.
With the support of both the deaf community and the National Association of
the Deaf, Douglas Burke established the Miss Deaf American Talent Pageant.
Originally stated by the Utah Association for the Deaf, "the pageant was a
new concept to help us elevate the image and self concept of deaf ladies
throughout the United States" (Drummond, 2008). They also went on to express
the true importance of this pageant. Although many think of pageants to be
based on appearance, this pageant focuses mainly on the cultural aspects.
The contest steers away from the word talent and rather focuses on the
cultural aspect and importance. As stated on the National Association of
deaf Americans, "the women are judged across a broad spectrum of categories
including community service, academics, current events, knowledge of the
deaf culture and more" (Bloch, 2008).
In order to be considered for this honor, the contestant must be between
eighteen and twenty eight years old and have already one the title within
their state. Since this pageant is held in each state, many girls are able
to compete and although only one wins, there is more to the competition than
just winning. Public speaking skills, the ability to answer interview
questions quickly and successfully and poise are all acquired through the
process. According to the National Association of the Deaf website, "the
Pageant offers these women the opportunity to develop their personalities,
self-confidence and poise, as well as display their talents, express their
opinions and share their ambitions" (Nisenholtz, 2008). The winner also is
given the chance to win scholarships for future education. On top of all the
honor and pride that comes along with winning, the winner has a very large
job to complete. The Miss Deaf America winner is a role model for all deaf
and hard of hearing women in America.
The winner holds their title for two years during which they become an
ambassador for both the National Association of the Deaf and a goodwill
ambassador which represents and works with the nearly twenty eight million
deaf and hard of hearing citizens of America. The current title holder is
Chelsea Tobin who was crowned in 2006 and will continue through 2008.
Chelsea's platform is "Vanquishing Audism". She goes on to explain, "the
term is given by the Deaf Community to acts of discrimination that take
place due to someone's hearing loss and/or deafness" (Bloch, 2008). She
stresses to those she teaches and speaks with the importance of each and
every person, reassuring that one person can make a difference. She also is
involved in showing off her many of her own talents by performing in the Dr.
Seuss ASLized. She currently majors in Deaf Education and hopes to become an
elementary school educator. Both Chelsea Tobin and the National Association
of the Deaf have high expectations and hopes for this program and the
positive effects it will have for the men and women in the deaf community.
Bloch, Nancy. (2008, Oct. 5). NAD Miss Deaf America. National Association of
the Deaf. NAD. 28 Nov. 2008: http://www.nad.org/site/pp.asp?c=foINKQMBF&b=103756
Drummond, Megan. (2008, Jan. 23). Miss Deaf America. Suite101. National
Association of the Deaf. 28 Nov. 2008: http://deafness.suite101.com/article.cfm/miss_deaf_america
Nisenholtz, Martin .(2008, Feb. 30). First Deaf Miss America. The New York
Times. The New York Times. 28 Nov. 2008: http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?sec=health&res=9803E2DB1E3BF93AA2575AC0A962958260