Amplifying chances

Miss Amazing is back in full swing in Nebraska


Photo taken by Alexis Bahensky

Girls with disabilities show off their talents and dreams at the 2021 Miss Amazing Amplify event. They are given a chance to show the world that they are no different than any other girl and are on the path to do great things. “The Amplify Event is an annual event that gathers girls and women from across the state of Nebraska (and even a gal from Wyoming this year) of all different abilities,” volunteer director Sydney Ferrara said. “Its purpose is to encourage confidence, leadership and friendship.”

Alexis Bahensky, Opinions Editor

Girls of all ages were able to showcase their talents and aspirations on Nov. 6 and 7 at the annual Nebraska Miss Amazing Amplify event at Ralston High School. The event helps spread awareness about disabilities.

Nebraska Miss Amazing’s mission is to question the status quo held over those with disabilities, especially girls. The organization focuses on self-esteem and its three aspects: fulfillment, leadership and added value. They incorporate each aspect into all events, including this year’s Amplify event.

While in the past Miss Amazing called this event a pageant, this year they decided to move toward the phrase “Amplify event.” Rather than wanting the basic pageant stereotype, they hope the new title will show the true mission of the event: amplifying the voices of girls who usually go unheard.

A total of 149 volunteers, including many Millard West National Honors Society members, dedicated their time to help make the Amplify event possible. From that number, 90 signed up to be full-day buddies. They were paired with a contestant with whom they aided and bonded with throughout the day. 

“During the day, the participants get to meet a volunteer who is paired with them,” volunteer director Sydney Ferrara said. “They stick together all day, which gives the ladies a chance to become comfortable and create lasting friendships with new people. The participants rotate through events including on-stage practice and interview where they are given the opportunities to share what makes them special and their hopes and ambitions for the future with multiple people in different settings.”

Others worked either behind the scenes, including make-up and hair, or being right-hand men, who guided contestants on stage during their introductions. Each group played a vital role in preparing the contestants for their final show. Volunteers came all across Nebraska to lend a helping hand. Most who participated were high school students. Millard West senior Camille O’Neill saw the opportunity and didn’t hesitate to sign up to buddy up with a contestant.

Throughout the day, girls go to a room designated to get their hair and makeup ready for the event. Many volunteers, including college students and professional stylists, help the contestants by giving them their dream looks. (Photo taken by Alexis Bahensky)

“My favorite part about volunteering with Miss Amazing was getting to know all of the girls from across the state and getting to help my buddy prepare for the final show and seeing her progress throughout the day,” O’Neill said. “I would definitely do it again.”

This year, 62 women and girls signed up to participate in the event. Out of those participants, former Millard West student Caroline Covi decided to partake in Miss Amazing for the second time. 

“It’s something different from what I do like riding horses and gymnastics,” Covi said. “I love Miss Amazing. It’s so fun to do and to see all the different talents.”

The day started with contestants and volunteers getting to know one another. Volunteers gave their buddies stuffed animals as a gesture of thanks for allowing them to spend the whole day together. After introductions were made, different age groups headed to a wide range of preparation activities including hair and make-up, interviews and onstage practice. Arts and crafts were also provided later on to give buddies and contestants a chance to show off their creativity and create a stronger bond with one another.

With every unique contestant followed an equally unique talent during the end of the night show. Talents ranged from dancing, singing, drinking hot chocolate, showing off their art, playing the violin, and much more. Covi was able to show off her passion for horses by entertaining the audience with some horse trivia.

At the end of each night, contestants are all crowned by their buddies and deemed the title princess. One contestant from each age group is then chosen to be the queen. Those chosen are then able to attend the Miss Amazing summit held every summer where they share their stories and plans to help increase awareness for girls with disabilities. 

Junior teen winner of the 2020 event Emma Jud decided to be a participant once again this year. Last year she showed the audience that girls with disabilities can be just as strong as anyone else through powerlifting. This year she had a new approach: educating those on the word inclusion.

“Spread the word inclusion,” Jud said. “Most people use the r-word but forget that people like me have feelings too. Hopefully, my presentation will encourage more people to participate and volunteer with Miss Amazing to help us in our mission.”

The event went on like any other of the events in the previous years; however, there was one thing that stood out: the large camera crew following the contestants and volunteers. While in the morning meeting for volunteers, it was announced that Peacock TV would be creating a show over Miss Amazing. 

“We hope to bring more awareness to the Miss Amazing community and its participants,” Field Coordinator Jessica Perrin said. “Marginalized groups often get overlooked or portrayed through a contrived lens in the media. It’s important to us that these girls have agency over their stories and how the world sees them. This is their narrative and we’re here to listen and learn from them.”

Nebraska Miss Amazing will continue to hold events throughout the year; however, this year’s Amplify event was able to bring new ways for them to get their message across the state and even the country: spreading the word inclusion.