Girls in Action: Helping Girls With Disabilities Feel ‘Amazing’
Jordan Somer, 16, is changing the world through the Miss Amazing Pageant for girls and young women with disabilities. Teen Voices chatted with Jordan about her reasons for starting the pageant, what it does for the girls who participate, and how she manages to get everything done!
Teen Voices: Tell us about the Miss Amazing Pageant!
Jordan Somer: The Miss Amazing Pageant is meant to raise confidence and self-esteem in girls and young women with disabilities from ages five to 35. We do this to improve their skills. They learn how to do a personal interview, they get on stage and introduce themselves, they model their evening wear, and they do a talent if they want to. They do all this stuff, and through this, they learn to believe in themselves. They know that they can do what they want to do.
TV: How long have you been doing this?
Jordan: The first Miss Amazing Pageant was in 2007, so I'm planning the fourth annual pageant in November 2010.
TV: So what inspired you to start the Miss Amazing Pageant?
Jordan: I really liked helping out at the Special Olympics, and I was really passionate about pageants, so I combined those two things." I thought, if I can get on stage and I can do all the pageant stuff, then why can't girls with disabilities? And I found that these girls really didn't have the chance. Girls with disabilities didn't have any opportunity to be in pageants. I thought it would be a good idea to start a pageant for them.
TV: Could you tell me more about your opinion of what a traditional pageant is and how the Miss Amazing Pageant is different?
Jordan: There's a big difference between a beauty pageant and a scholarship pageant. In a beauty pageant they judge everything off your looks and probably a little off personality as well (I don't really do those). Scholarship pageants are more about your self-confidence and the way you present yourself in an interview, and your public speaking skills and scholastic achievements. That is the type of pageant I compete in.
The Miss Amazing Pageant is very similar to the pageants I compete in, because they do judge on self-esteem and confidence and how the judges think that the girls believe in themselves. And I mean, that's a learning process. Not every girl is just going to go in there and believe in themselves, but they can see year by year that their self-esteem starts increasing and they get used to talking to people. I think that's what we judge on and it's just great to see them improve their skills year after year.
TV: Alright, so could you tell us a little more about your role? What do you do in preparation for this and during the pageant?
Jordan: It's quite crazy throughout the year; I have a lot of support from my mom, but I pretty much do it all. I run the event completely run through donations, so I have to get donations for the area and the space we're going to use and I usually provide lunch for the girls.
TV: Do you make the lunches or do you get people to donate?
Jordan: Well, one year we just got people to donate bread and meat and we made sandwiches. This year, we got a dollar donation. And other donations we get are trophies that we give to each girl. Those are actually recycled because [there are] a lot of pageants with trophies, so we get trophies to be recycled. I just tear the plates off the old ones and put new ones on that say "Miss Amazing."
The rest of it is just finding judges, making the program books to give to everyone in the audience. As far as getting contestants I do a lot of word-of-mouth, and I have newspaper articles that have been written. The Ollie Webb Foundation helps families of people with disabilities, and they have helped me out a lot. They have a lot of contacts, so I go through that organization and also the Arts of Nebraska help me out. So I cover promotion, I cover donationsI'm not sure what else to say to explain my role. It's just about everything, the whole operation; I need volunteers, I have to find them as well.
TV: That's a lot of work!
Jordan: Oh yeah, definitely, but I have a whole year.
TV: And what's your favorite part of the pageant?
Jordan: It's so much work for only one day, but probably more than anything, I just feel exactly where I want to be in my life right then. That's the feeling I have, that this is what I want to do with my life. I love giving back, and I think that's the meaning of my life, to make a positive difference in the world. We all affect each other so much, and that's how I want to affect people. That's just how I feel, that's my favorite part. I finally get that feeling of satisfaction.
TV: Can you tell us about any one or two contestants who have particularly inspired you?
Jordan: One girl has competed for the past three years. She always sings and dances for talent and every time she sees me, she runs up and hugs me and says, "Hey there, Jordan!" She's just so enthusiastic about everything, and everything that she does, in all the events, and in life in general. She's so enthusiastic and so positive about everything.
TV: So like you said, this will be your fourth year running. How has the pageant changed over the past four years.
Jordan: The first year was definitely more low-key, since I was just starting the organization. I think one of the biggest things was the first year, my mom helped me a lot and I think just over time the program started to get a lot of recognition and it was all getting thrown at me, like, "Jordan Somer did this," and it's true, I did come up with the idea, I did help her a lot, but over the years I started taking the reins of it more, because I do feel that if I'm getting all the credit, I'm going to be doing all the work. When I needed my mom's help on small things I would go to her.
The venue has also improved. The first year, the pageant was at a church center and then the year after that was at Plattsmouth High School, and then last November, it was at the Holiday Inn Convention Center which was huge. We have dance competitions there, it was an awesome venue and they have actually donated the space last year and they're donating it this year, too, so I hope to keep them on board! The staff is awesome, the girls love getting a room for the night and going to the water park that's downstairs, it's so much fun. That's one thing that's definitely improved.
TV: Well that sounds really great, who knows, maybe you can double your numbers again this year, who knows? So you take donations when people come to the pageant?
Jordan: Yes. The only cost for the girls to compete in the pageant is four cans of food, but there are also girls who just bring in bags of food just to donate. Each year, we collect around 250 to 300 pounds of food. It's kind of a three-in-one, because we change the lives of the girls in the Miss Amazing Pageant through the experience, we get the cans of food from the contestants, and also, the only price to go to the final show is $10 for the tickets. All the money we raise is donated to organizations around the community, and we also keep a little bit for the next year's pageant.
TV: What advice would you give to teen girls who want to become more involved in their community or even start a project of their own?
Jordan: I would say that first you need to find something that absolutely inspires you. If you just try to start an organization or start a project and you're just like "Eh, it's OK," then it's not going to go well. You're not going to want to find time to get it done, you're not going to want to really come out with a good project so find something that either has happened in your life that has really affected you or something that you've seen that's made a difference in your life and then you can branch off of that. First is inspiration, then after that it's all planning and it's all having that determination to get it done. And that after all that hard work, it definitely comes down to something that will change your life and it will open so many doors of opportunity. Through the Miss Amazing Pageant, which I kind of started by accident, I've won awards and scholarships. I never went out thinking, "Oh, I want this for my resume or scholarship." First, you just have to find something you're passionate about.
Tagged as: community, community work, disabilities, girls, helping others, Miss Amazing Pageant, pageants, self-esteem, social change, social justice, volunteering, volunteerism