INWOOD — Lifelong Inwood resident Katherine Ureña, 22, who was recently crowned Jr. Miss at New York's first-ever Miss Amazing pageant, is raising money to help fund her trip to the national competition in Los Angeles this summer.
The pageant, which is currently held in 30 states, gives young women with disabilities a chance to get a taste of the pageant experience. Ureña, who has a form of muscular dystrophy, is now seeking donations through an online campaign to help pay her trip to the national pageant in July.
She first heard about Miss Amazing through her friend who works as a pageant coach, but initially wasn’t sure the experience was for her.
“I’m a full-time student so I was like, ‘Should I do the pageant?’ But my friend said I would be great,” Ureña said. “I’m glad she convinced me because it was an experience I’ll never forget.”
The Miss Amazing pageant was started in Nebraska in 2007 by Jordan Somers, a veteran of the pageant circuit. Somers’ goal was to help young women with disabilities build confidence and leadership skills, as well as to encourage greater inclusiveness of people with special needs, according to her bio.
Contestants compete in four categories: the introduction, the interview, evening wear and talent showcase. In order to make the state pageants accessible for all, the entrance fee is a donation of five cans of food, which are later given to local organizations. The events are funded through donations and sponsorships.
About 30 girls and women ranging in age from 5 to 35 participated in the New York pageant, which was held at the Symphony Space Theater near West 95th Street on March 21. Ureña competed against six other young women in her age group for the title of Jr. Miss Amazing.
Ureña said the best part of the event was meeting other women with disabilities, something that doesn’t happen often in her daily life.
“When you have a disability like mine, not everybody understands where you’re coming from,” she explained. “Being around other people with disabilities, they understand the struggles that you go through just to keep living.”
The pageant also gave Ureña a chance to overcome one of her fears: public speaking. Because of a previous surgery, it is a challenge for Ureña to speak clearly.
For her talent, she read the Maya Angelou poem “Phenomenal Woman.”
Ureña was so surprised when she won that the judges had to call her name twice.
“I didn’t move from the space. I just stood there, like, did they really call my name?” she said. “I was so happy and seeing my mom so happy in the crowd, it just felt great.”
Ureña is now raising money through GoFundMe to represent New York in the national Miss Amazing pageant, which will be held in Los Angeles in July. She has currently raised $160 of her $5,000 goal, which will help cover expenses including airfare and the rental of a wheelchair-accessible vehicle while she is in L.A.
Ureña said she wants to compete in the national event to serve as role model for women like her.
“I want to show the world that we’re not just girls with disabilities,” she said. “We’re people who are smart and have goals.”
Ureña is used to exceeding other people’s expectations of her.
She said that people are often surprised to learn that she is earning a degree in marketing and communications at the Fashion Institute of Technology. Her goal is to become the fashion director of a major fashion magazine.
Ureña sees the pageant as another opportunity to show how capable she is.
“I love the pageant and what it stands for, because it’s opening doors for us,” she said. “You’ve never seen a pageant just for people with disabilities, so it’s going to open many doors.”