Special needs beauty pageant gives contestants new confidence

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ANDERSON COUNTY, SC (WSPA) — Dozens of people geared up to strut their stuff in an Anderson County special needs pageant on Thursday night.

Organizers said the event was put on to build confidence and raise awareness for the special needs community.

“I want you to really work the crowd. Smile! You know walk down there, have a lot of confidence,” said Susan Wright, a pageant contestant’s mother.

Susan Wright spent nearly a month, prepping her daughter for the big stage.

“This is the first year that she’s going to be able to wear heels. She’s never worn heels and we’ve been practicing on different flooring to get her to make sure she’s confident in those heels,” Wright said.

Hours before the ‘You are Beautiful’ pageant, Sarah Wright said she was ready for her big night.

“I can not wait to get my make-up done…my hair done. I can’t wait to get my waves in my hair,” said Sarah.

For 19 years, Sarah has been a part of the special olympics community. Her mother said throughout school, Sarah was never given the opportunity to express herself through activities.

“She had some growth and fine motor skill problems. So she was never able to get into regular sports,” Wright said.

That changed three years ago when they met two pageant and fitness enthusiasts. Those women are the brains behind the County’s only special needs pageant.

“Lauren and I are true advocates of for true beauty and authentic love. And we believe this community portrays that beautifully. And what better way to showcase that than through a pageant,” said Raegan McCullough, Owner of Beauty Rocks Pageantry.

McCullough is a former beauty queen. Lauren Ross is a fitness studio owner. Both said they want to tear down the walls of stereotypes when it comes to people with special needs.

“Letting them know their worth and that they are deeply valued as individuals and human beings,” said Lauren Ross, Owner of Freedom Fitness.

As Sarah prepared to walk down the runway with 13 other girls and 10 young men, she said she believed this will allow her to be free and not concerned about those who judge her.

“Confident, comfortable, happy and thoughtful,” said Sarah.

Overall, the family said this was more than just a pageant. Instead, it’s a space for each contestant to realize their value and know their worth.

“Let me win and if I can not win, let me be brave in the attempt,” Sarah added.

Organizers said their goal is to raise at least $4,000 from this year’s event. They hope to donate the funds to the special needs community. They also said next year, they plan to make this event larger by having different categories for all age groups.

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