A Voyage Out Of Silence: Tale of Deaf Beauty Queens
What is an essence of a beauty queen? When a beauty queen is crowned she is acknowledged as an epitome of willpower, sturdiness, courage and grace! While the world gets to notice quite a lot of beauty queens who are witty in their words, there are few queens who are witty in their minds, sagacity and sensation!
Heather Leigh Whitestone McCallum was the first deaf Miss America title holder, having lost most of her hearing capability at the age 18 months. In fourth grade, Heather learned about the story of a young woman from Alabama who would forever change her life, Helen Keller. Helen Keller became her role model and Heather decided to follow her footsteps as she pursued her determination to achieve her dreams. She asked her family to send her to a special school that would enable her to catch up with other students in her class.
Thereafter, Heather first participated in Shelby County Junior Miss program. While not actually a beauty pageant, the experience gave her the assurance to begin entering pageants. In her first year in the Miss America system, she won the Miss Jacksonville State University title, and went on win Miss Alabama. She stood next to Miss Virginia, Culen Johnson in the finals of the Miss America 1995 pageant. When the first runner-up was announced, she could not hear the host, Regis Philbin but could read his lips. Surprised, she looked to her fellow contestant for confirmation that she had won.
As Miss America, she showcased her S.T.A.R.S. program around the country. S.T.A.R.S. stands for “Success Through Action and Realization of your dreams.” She also served as an executive member on the President’s Committee on Employment of People Disabilities. Since her Miss America win, Heather has completed her studies at Jacksonville State University and continued to promote awareness of Deaf issues. A volunteer for Republican causes, she spoke at the party’s National Conventions of 1996 and 2000, for GOP presidential nominees Bob Dole and George W. Bush.
Her accomplishments comprises many notable events like being appointed by President Bush and confirmed by the US Senate to the National Council on Disability , along with becoming a board member for the Helen Keller Foundation for Research and Education, from 1995-2002. She was also appointed to the Advisory Council for the National Institute of Health on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, in 2002. In 2003, she filmed two public service announcements to bring awareness about “Dogs for the Deaf”, which is a hearing-dog organization. She became a spokesperson for the Starkey Hearing Aid Foundation and for Cochlear America’s. She has written three books: Listening with My Heart, Believing in the Promise, and Let God Surprise You. She has also spearheaded the nation’s largest multimedia public service campaign to identify early hearing loss, which was created by the Miss America Organization and the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf.
Analogously, celebrated Filipino deaf model, Princess Pura, a college student made history as the country’s first deaf beauty queen in 2014. 17 years old beauty, Princess Pura was crowned among the top three winners in the ‘Queen of the Philippines’ in Subic, Zambales. Being deaf since birth, the Hotel and Restaurant Management student says winning a beauty pageant is a dream come true. Princess represented Philippines in the ‘Face of Beauty International’ competition in China. Princess Pua believes that she wants to be an inspiration to other disabled women to pursue their ambitions.
Lately, Elena LaQuatra from Pittsburgh was crowned as Miss Pennsylvania USA 2016. Elena will represent Pennsylvania in Miss USA 2016. At the age of 4, Elena lost her hearing ability due to bacterial meningitis. Nonetheless after numerous surgeries Elena can now hear with a Cochlear Implant. To regain her spoken language skills, Elena attended DePaul School for Hearing and Speech for four years. She is a graduate of Mt. Lebanon High School and completed her Bachelor of Arts degree in Broadcast Communications from Point Park University and at present works as an entertainment reporter with WTAE in Pittsburgh.
Formerly, Elena was crowned as Miss Pennsylvania Outstanding Teen 2007 and represented the state at Miss America Outstanding Teen 2007 where she won the second runner-up title. Elena also bagged Miss Pennsylvania Teen USA 2010 crown subsequent to which she represented Pennsylvania at Miss Teen USA 2010 but failed to place in the semi-finals. Last year she was crowned first runner-up at Miss Pennsylvania USA 2015. Elena was also a part of Greece’s Top Model Season 2.
Elena’s ambition is to promote oral education. She is an encouragement to the deaf community, in particular the oral deaf community. The enthusiastic beauty queen tells: “Nobody can tell I’m deaf at all until I tell them, and most of the time, they don’t even believe me! I have to show them my cochlear implant.”
Nothing is impossible if one owns the determination! These beauty queens are truly motivation and inspiration to entire mankind and for this fortitude, I salute them!