When crowned as the top beauty queen for their state, young women have a unique opportunity to draw attention to a cause. For the past few years more and more beauty queens across America have been promoting autism awareness and helping bring more attention to this national epidemic.
Rachel Brooks, recently crowned Miss Pennsylvania, is the latest winner to use her state-wide platform to bring attention to autism, a cause close to her heart. Her 18-year-old brother, Brandon, was diagnosed with autism as a child.
Miss Pennsylvania 2007, Rachel Brooks
"I see how he struggles with the disease on a daily basis," she said. "Seeing the prevalence of it and seeing that it appears to be a growing epidemic, I knew I had to get involved."
Previously, Brooks had focused on volunteerism, but after spending time volunteering with Cure Autism Now's Philadelphia Chapter a few years ago, she decided to change her focus and her platform to “Autism Awareness: Unlocking the Mystery”. Since then, she has been actively involved in volunteering with Cure Autism Now and now Autism Speaks.
"She was able to see the problem and the disability in a different light than when she was younger," Brooks' father said. "So when she decided to switch her focus, it was tremendous."
Pageant winners like Brooks, who have chosen autism awareness as their platform, have had to become well-versed on current events and issues relating to autism for pageant interviews. This knowledge has made them wonderful spokeswomen once they have won the crown.
Others in the past few years who have helped increase autism awareness through holding a pageant title are:
- Miss New Jersey 2004 - Erica Lynne Scanlon
- Miss Oregon 2006 - Donilee McGinnis
- Miss North Carolina 2006 - Elizabeth Leigh Horton
- Miss Illinois 2006 - Heidi Ekstrom
- Miss New Jersey USA 2007- Erin Abrahamson
We thank these young women for their heart and dedication to bringing attention to autism.