Meet Alexis Wineman, 2012′s Miss Montana who is headed to the Miss America pageant this January. This year, Alexis will truly be unlike all the other pageant competitors: she was diagnosed with autism at age 11.
Alexis spent her childhood learning to cope with with the effects of autism, including having difficulty socializing with her classmates and taking “everything so literally,” she explained to DisabilityScoop. Performing — like the comedic monologue she’ll perform at Miss America — helped her gain confidence and socialize other people. Now Alexis is now 18 and travels across Montana as the state’s beauty queen teaching kids about developmental disabilities like her own.
To be sure: beauty pageants can be totally regressive and cheesy and push normative beauty standards. But I have to admit there’s a soft space in my heart for the women and girls who compete who are “different” — Honey Boo Boo, for instance, or Mrs. Black North Carolina, Sandra Dubose-Gibson, who is bald. They remind everyone, especially those in the pageant world, that women are not cookie cutter.
Because at the end of the day, Alexis Wineman is just like any other young woman out there, autistic or not: the hardest part of her life, she says, is walking in heels.