Two young ladies were the first local residents to be chosen to compete in the National Miss Amazing pageant in Chicago.
Taylor Graham, 11, won Miss Amazing Pre-Teen at the local level and won Tennessee Miss Amazing Pre-Teen at the state pageant in Nashville. She placed third in Chicago during national competition Aug. 2-4.
Reba Merriman, 15, won Miss Amazing Junior Teen at the local Miss Amazing Pageant and advanced to win the title of Tennessee Miss Amazing Junior Teen in state competition in Nashville on April 7. This win qualified Reba to compete in the national pageant in Chicago.
The pageant consisted of an interview segment, passion presentation and evening gown walk. Competing for the title were 164 ladies from 30 states. There are six divisions in the pageant, including Pre-Teen, Junior Teen, Teen, Junior Miss, Miss and Senior Miss. Ages are 10 to over 30.
“My passion presentation was about how I wanted to be a vet, and I explained how service dogs work and what kind of work they can do,” said Graham. “I have a service dog because I get nervous or overwhelmed around a lot of people. I just described how my service dog, Merida, comforted me.”
Merriman said her favorite part was doing the cheer for her talent in the passion presentation. The cheer consisted of learning all the necessary moves and practicing the routine.
“I really liked hanging out with all of my friends while learning the cheer,” said Merriman.
As for the evening gown walk, Merriman enjoyed wearing her dress on stage and will keep it to remember the experience. Graham enjoyed being treated like a princess while having her hair and make-up done.
“My evening gown was purple and had sparkles going all of the way down it,” said Merriman.
Added Graham, “My favorite part was the Navy Pier in Chicago. My second favorite part was the hair and make-up.”
Thanks to donations from sponsors, Merriman’s family was able to travel to Chicago with Reba to watch her compete. Angie Merriman, Reba’s mother, says she was very excited Reba was able to participate in a national pageant.
“My family was very happy,” said Merriman.
Graham’s father and mother, Josh and Heather Graham, went to Chicago with Taylor, along with her grandmother, Jamie LeChant, and little brother, Joshua Graham.
“Chicago was amazing. Reba didn’t place, but the things she learned from being in the pageant were worth everything,” said Mary Payne, a WCMS teacher who helped her prepare.
Merriman says she made a lot of friends and wants to continue to compete next year. Graham is looking forward to doing the same and says everyone is very proud of her.
Miss Amazing is a nonprofit organization focusing on providing personal development opportunities to build self-esteem in girls and women with disabilities. Miss Amazing programs are now available in 32 states from coast to coast, including Tennessee.