What does it take to be amazing?
Jordan Somer, a 13-year old girl from Omaha, Neb., knew that she could create something so that Special Olympics athletes could feel amazing.
In November of 2007, Somer made pageantry, something Somer participated in to expand her potential, accessible for the women with disabilities. Now the annual Miss Amazing pageant helps Special Olympics women build confidence and self-esteem in a supportive environment.
Opportunities like this have helped 14-year-old Mahomet resident Isabella Gonzalez feel amazing.
Gonzalez participated in her first Miss Amazing pageant in 2017 after watching some friends have fun during the pageant.
Gonzalez wanted to participate “in something where I’m not judged on how pretty I am/am not, what talents I have/don’t have, but instead celebrating us girls with disabilities for our uniqueness. That’s something I wanted to be a part of.”
Getting ready for the event was a bit of a challenge, but also something that made her feel beautiful.
“Because of my scoliosis it’s really hard to find something that fits me properly,” she said. “There are so many pretty dresses I tried, but they just didn’t work.”
Gonzalez ended up with a skirt and a shirt she was happy with, and got some special treatment from a friend at the Market Place Shopping Center.
“Mom took me to Claire’s in the mall, she said. “Her friend is the manager there. Mikki helped me find all the pretty accessories I needed.”
Miss Amazing contestants are encouraged to not only showcase how amazing they look dressed up, but also through their innate talents.
Gonzalez chose to sing Alessia Cara’s “Scars to Your Beautiful.”
“We are not judged, we express ourselves by doing what we love,” she said. “And then we have a dance party on stage afterward.”
Making friends is what Gonzalez enjoys most about her time with Special Olympics, the Penguin Project and the Miss Amazing pageant.
“There is nothing like the atmosphere at Miss Amazing!” Gonzalez said. “Jess, our state director, she is the warmest, welcoming person, she knows all of our names! I have made several new friends, we keep in touch through Facebook. We are not competitors, we support and encourage one another. True friendships are made.”
Participants also receive nothing but support from their parents.
“They are not ‘stage parents’, they wear their hearts and pride on their sleeves. They are our cheerleaders,” Gonzalez said.
On April 7, Gonzalez was crowned Miss Amazing Illinois, and is now preparing to make new friends at the National Miss Amazing Pageant from Aug. 3-6 in Rosemont, IL.
“I was shocked. At first I wasn’t sure I heard my name, and then I was so overwhelmed with emotions,” she said. “It is an Amazing honor to be crowned.”
Aside from getting a new dress, and perfecting a new song, Gonzalez has also been raising money for Nationals.
So far she has sold “Be You, Be Amazing” T-shirts and held a fundraiser at Blaze Pizza.
On June 1 and 2, she will have a Bake Sale/Lemon Shake-up stand at 106 Red Bud Ct., Mahomet. Then on June 6, funds will be raised at Red Robin from 5 to 9 p.m. Gonzalez supporters are also working on a spaghetti dinner and trivia night in July.
All funds raised will be used towards expenses such as hotel stay, meals, gala, transportation, a new dress, accessories and event tickets. Any funds remaining will be donated to Illinois MissAmazing for next year’s event.
Donations can also be made through donate.missamazing.org
She will also be in events like the Fourth of July parade, Taste of Champaign and the Mahomet Music Festival this summer.
Gonzalez said that being able to participate in the Miss Amazing pageant, “makes me feel important, like I’m somebody.”
And that may just be all it takes to be amazing.