Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Poquoson resident wins state pageant for women and girls with disabilities

24-year-old Amanda Chandler is crowned Virginia Miss Amazing, a pageant for girls and women with special needs. (WYDaily/Courtesy of Jaimie Chandler)

POQUOSON — Amanda Chandler is heading to Nashville with a crown. 

On Saturday, April 17, the 24-year-old Poquoson resident was crowned Virginia Miss Amazing

Miss Amazing is a national program for girls and women with disabilities. Founded in 2007 by an Omaha, Nebraska teenager, Miss Amazing pageants showcase the unique abilities of girls and women with special needs. The pageant has been held in Virginia for the past 10 years. It began with two or three young women, but has since grown. This year’s event had 20 participants. 

Inspired by her older sister who competed in pageants, Amanda first began participating in the pageant program in 2013.

As reigning Virginia Miss Amazing, Amanda will compete in Nashville, Tennessee this summer for the national title. This will be Amanda’s fourth time representing Virginia at the national level. 

She hopes to “win the big crown and trophy.”

Amanda has Tetrasomy X, a rare medical condition where there are four chromosomes present, instead of two. At this time, there were only 60 known cases in the world. 

At six months old, doctors said that Amanda would never walk or talk, her mother, Jaimie Chandler, said.  

“Now she’s graduated high school, she does Special Olympics, she wins pageants,” Jaimie said. “It just warms my heart to see that she’s able to do these things.”

Amanda said that her favorite part about the pageants are the friendships she’s made along the way.

“I’ve made a lot of new friends, like a big family,” she said.

Through the program, Amanda and her mother have been able to network with other families in the special needs community.

“The community is very supportive,” Jaimie said. “Miss Amazing is basically like family. We are still in connection with girls we met in Alaska, California, Tennessee.” 

This year’s pageant was conducted through Zoom, which Jaimie said was difficult on the girls.

“They couldn’t go to festivals with their crowns and sashes and talk about Miss Amazing and spread awareness like they usually do,” she said. 

Though the pageant was done virtually this year, the young women still showcased a variety of talents, including singing, dancing and playing instruments. 

“You’ve got girls who can’t speak but they may have a communication device. You’ve got girls who can’t walk, but they’re out on that stage doing performances,” Jaimie said. “I’ve been a part of it for many years, and i still can’t watch it with a dry eye.” 

In the past, Amanda has competed by playing the drums, Electric DJ-ing, and singing. 

She won this year’s competition by singing “Let it Go” from “Frozen.”   

Along with their talents, the young women also share their stories. 

“The stories are just amazing.” Jaimie said. “It shows that even though they have special needs, they’re still part of the community.” 

Amanda and other young women with special needs compete in Miss Amazing by sharing their talents and stories. (WYDaily/Courtesy of Jaimie Chandler)

Past state pageants have taken place in Virginia Beach, where Amanda said one of her favorite parts was when the city police officers came out and escorted the girls.

The pageant also has a Right Hand Man program, which allows young men with or without disabilities to escort the young women. 

However, some young ladies, like Amanda, have a boyfriend, and they can choose to be escorted by their significant others or family members. 

The pageant also has local sororities and other volunteers that come in to help the girls with their hair, makeup and to be their “buddies.”

The program contains different age groups, ranging from ages five to 35. 

After age 35, the women are considered “Shooting Stars.” While they don’t compete, they can still be active in the program. 

All of the participants receive a crown, with the winner earning a larger crown and sash. 

“You know, you go there and there’s no judgement,” Jaimie said. “Nobody’s making fun of anyone’s disability.”

Since graduating from Poquoson High School in 2016, Amanda has not only participated in pageants, but she also actively raises money for several charities. 

She advocates on behalf of the Autism community, raises money for the special needs organization, SMART-One Inc., and participates in Special Olympics

She’s done the Polar Plunge nine years in a row, including this year’s virtual event.

Amanda’s next stop is Nashville from July 30 through August 2. There, she will compete at Vanderbilt University for the Miss Amazing national title.

“We’re just very excited,” Jaimie said. “This isn’t the first time she’s represented, but each time is so different.” 

Past national competitions have taken place in different cities around the country, including Omaha and Chicago.  

After Nationals, Amanda will continue to spread awareness about the organization and the special needs community through her social media platforms. 

“When we do it next year, we want it to grow,” Jaimie said. “I know that there’s girls that are not experiencing this because they don’t know about it.” 

You can follow Amanda’s journey through her Facebook page, What’s Up With Amanda.

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