On this page… PAGEANT NEWS ˜ THE ms. wheelchair USA STORY ˜ THE MWUSA CREW
MS. WHEELCHAIR USA AMBASSADOR PROGRAM EXPANDED
The Ms. Wheelchair USA Ambassador program has expanded to include two more amazing women! Sarah Tompkins, Ms. Wheelchair Washington USA and the first runner-up in 2022 has been crowned an MWUSA Ambassador as well as Ashley Lawrence, Ms. Wheelchair South Carolina 2022 3rd runner-up to MWUSA. Both of these amazing women bring their platforms, their community experience and their ideas and commitment to growing the Ms. Wheelchair USA organization. Sarah and Ashley join Dianna Warren and Michele Miller in the MWUSA Winner’s Circle.
DOCU-SERIES BEING FILMED!
Ms. Wheelchair USA is going Hollywood! In 2021 the pageant announced that it is the subject of a docu-series “A Different Kind of Crown,” that began shooting in June of the same year. Filming continues throughout the pageant seasons. The docu-series will tell the story of the Ms. Wheelchair USA program, and feature the women with disabilities that compete for the title. The broadcast date is slated for late 2023. A documentary short film by the same name is in full production now with hopes for release in early 2023. Stay tuned for more film information!
MWUSA has Certified COVID Compliance Officer
After the reduction of COVID restrictions and the COVID-19 vaccines becoming more readily available, the Ms. Wheelchair USA program held a live competitions in July 2021 & 2022. One reason, the MWUSA has a certified COVID Compliance Officer as a member of the pageant team that focused on the hygiene and safety of the set during each year’s production.
THE MS. WHEELCHAIR USA STORY
The pageant world boasts more than 4,600 pageant competitions, but only two for women with disabilities that impair their mobility. Ms. Wheelchair USA is very different from the other “disability-based” pageants. In the traditional spirit of pageantry, Ms. Wheelchair USA recognizes that all women, despite any disability, can be beautiful, glamorous, and can exhibit self-confidence in personal, professional, and public life. The women of Ms. Wheelchair USA are exciting, proud of themselves, and their accomplishments. They actively contribute to the betterment of our families, communities, and world.
Ms. Wheelchair USA has been going and growing strong since it was founded in 1997 by Ms. Lowery D. Lockard. Ms. Lockard believed that glamorous pageantry must be afforded to all women. By
providing a stage like Miss America and other well-known “beauty” pageants, she has led the charge for women with disabilities to garner opportunities for themselves, while also laying a unique foundation for disability awareness and understanding. In the beginning, the pageant was an Ohio resident only competition. The event was so successful, that people came from all over the country to watch the competition, and encouraged its expansion. Since it wasn’t fitting to have a Ms. Wheelchair Ohio USA from Kentucky or California, the national Ms. Wheelchair USA pageant was born. Its mission, “to promote glamour, self-confidence and community service; celebrating the achievements of women with disabilities.”
Some subscribe to the theory that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. According to the Ms. Wheelchair USA organization, beauty is found amongst women with disabilities that have overcome unforeseen obstacles, yet continue to offer help, encouragement, and understanding. They not only care for themselves, but believe that turning their personal storms into stories, can and will impact the world in a unique way. Women who utilize wheelchairs or other adaptive devices participate in this program, using it as a mechanism to promote the possibilities for, and the abilities of women; especially those with disabilities.
Competitions begin with the selection of state and regional representatives, judged and selected through submission of an application package. Winners then move forward to compete in a ten-day event each July held in Northeast, Ohio. There is no age limit or marital status requirement to compete. The youngest participants are eighteen years old, while the oldest, to date, seventy-two-years-amazing! Unlike other disability-based pageants, contestants must have a mobility issue, but may have use of their legs. The Ms. Wheelchair USA program does not discourage ability, but instead celebrates the individuality of the women who wear the MWUSA crowns.
The national titleholder is crowned following a week of activities, programs, learning sessions, press appearances, many rehearsals, and three nights of live on-stage production numbers and competitions. Contestants compete in private interview, round-robin interviews, evening wear, on-stage interview, platform presentation, and marketing statement competitions.
Other ancillary competitions include Ms. Photogenic, Ms. Congeniality, The Dane Foundation Quality of Life Award, The Georgia Hudson-Smith Quest for Knowledge award, and several other awards that celebrate a variety of
attributes. The winners of Ms. Wheelchair USA competitions spend their year on a state, regional and national level representing The Dane Foundation, the Ms. Wheelchair USA program, MWUSA national platforms as well as a contestant’s own platform issue or activity. There are four national platforms including the accessibility of travel, boundless playgrounds, representation of individuals with disabilities in the media, and conceptual beauty. For the new Ms. Wheelchair USA, the event culminates with a national speaking and appearance tour based on the pageant’s tenants and on the winner’s own selected platform issue. Of course there is a custom designed crown, banner, a management contract, and a prize package of gifts, gadgets, and opportunities.
In addition to the Ms. Wheelchair USA state, regional, and national competitions, the organization offers an ongoing menu of pageantry and service programs. There is the MWUSA Little Brother & Sister program for children with and without disabilities, and a year-round volunteer service programs for all ages. For contestants and titleholders, there is a Ms. Wheelchair USA Ambassador program, and a budding Ms. Wheelchair International competition. In addition to pageantry, MWUSA contestants that want to share their faith and testimony can participate in Crowns-4-Christ – The Unbroken Tour, a faith-based testimonial and inspirational touring show. Pageant-to-Purpose is open to all MWUSA titleholders. This program creates an alliance among the many winners of Ms. Wheelchair USA and its extended family. It’s designed to promote collaboration about on-going, purpose driven, projects and to enhance the contestant’s personal and professional growth. All of these ancillary opportunities continue promoting and growing MWUSA and The Dane Foundation after the actual pageant competitions are concluded.
The Ms. Wheelchair USA pageant is presented by The Dane Foundation, a nonprofit, 501C3 company with a mission of providing for “the unique needs of individuals with physical and developmental disabilities.” The program is supported by donations, organizational and corporate sponsorships, contestant entry fees, donations and volunteer services. Applications open the day after the national competition concludes, and winners reign for about one year passing their titles to the next winners September 1 of their competition year.
The Ms. Wheelchair USA family is a team with many serving more than 20 years together on this project! We truly are “a family!”
Lowery D. Lockard, founder, ceo, executive producer
Patty Moser, contestant coordinator, personal assistant to executive producer
Dr. Georgi Hudson-Smith, COVID compliance officer, pa
Mary Reed, venue coordinator, pa
Brooke Taylor, co-host of Ms. Wheelchair USA
Jeremy Parsons, PeopleTV & co-host of Ms. Wheelchair USA
Charles Korecki, technical director
Dan Demyan, broadcast director
Dianna Warren, Ms. Wheelchair USA Ambassador (northern region)
Michele Miller, Ms. Wheelchair USA Ambassador (southern region)
Sarah Tompkins, Ms. Wheelchair USA Ambassador (western region)
Ashley Lawrence, Ms. Wheelchair USA Ambassador (eastern region)
Nancy Parsons, contestant liaison, pa
Angela Herblet, stage manager
Marlene Martin, stage manager, pa