Inspired by the Special Olympics and her own experiences in pageants, Jordan Somer founded Miss Amazing in 2007 as a local pageant for girls and young women with disabilities in her home state of Nebraska. In the decade since, she’s fielded application calls in her college dorm room, received awards and grants from the likes of Teen Nickelodeon and Pepsi, and grew the program into a nationwide, non-profit organization with events in over 30 states.
Then, of course, there is an evening-wear segment and an optional talent showcase. “Our goal is to take certain elements of pageantry and to check others at the door,” Somer says, adding that, although it’s a pageant, you don’t need to be a girly-girl to participate. “We try not to reinforce certain stereotypes of what it means to be a woman or to be feminine.”