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Deaf Community:  Pageants
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Katie Wanker



Pageants for Deaf Americans

            There are several different types of pageants that Deaf Americans can be involved in.  There are pageants for boys and girls, and men and women.  There are pageants for specific races also.  Most pageants are held yearly, and some every two years.  The purpose of holding a pageant is to gain self-confidence and poise.  Pageants are usually held in local areas, and then they move to state competitions.  The winners from state competitions will then move on to national level and sometimes even world levels.

            One pageant that deaf women can participate in is the Miss Deaf America Pageant (MDPA).  This pageant was begun by man named Douglas J. Burke, in 1966.  He started a Natural Cultural Program within the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) in hopes of finding the talents hidden within deaf people.  Dr. Burke says the pageant is a “way to recognize deaf actresses at an early age.” Eventually, with the help of the NAD, the Miss Deaf America Talent Pageant was created as a part of the National Cultural Program.  (“MDAP History”)

            The Miss Deaf America Pageant offers women between the ages of 18-28 a wonderful opportunity to develop a self-confidence that they might not be able to receive from every day life.  The women will compete to become a goodwill ambassador and a spokeswoman for the National Association of the Deaf.  The goal of this Pageant is to “encourage and foster future leaders” (“MDAP History”).  This Pageant was begun as “…a new concept to help us evaluate the image and self-concept of deaf ladies throughout the United States.  This is not an ordinary contest...” There are many different categories that the contestants compete in.  Cultural talent performance is one of the biggest categories.  Other categories are beauty, poise, gracefulness, and desirable qualities. (“MDAP History”)

The first MDAP Pageant was held in Miami Beach, Florida.  It was held during the 1972 NAD Convention.  The Pageant had only a total of five contestants.  Since the first Pageant there have been some changes.  In 1976 the Pageant title Miss Deaf America Talent Pageant was changed to Miss Deaf America Pageant.  The contestants compete at the local and state competitions first and then move on to the National level.  The women are now judged on many other things than just their talent.  Some of the categories include community service, academics, current events, knowledge of deaf culture, and public speaking.  The women were required to make a three-minute presentation at the 1998 Pageant in San Antonio, Texas.  Each year the pageants have a theme.  The theme at the 2000 Pageant was “Charting New Waters”.  The pageant had 25 contestants and was held at Norfolk, Virginia. (“MDAP History”)

Another pageant for deaf, adult women is the NAD Miss Deaf America pageant.   The winner of this pageant has to be able to fulfill a list of duties for the next year.  “NAD Miss Deaf America begins her reign when she wins the pageant until the next NAD conference.  She will do various appearances such as; welcoming remark/greetings give presentations on the topic of their choice, question and answer sessions, attend workshops, storytelling, autograph sessions, and other various things.” (“NAD”)

            Another pageant, open only to teens, is the Mr./Miss Deaf Teen Pageant.  In order to be in this pageant, contestants must fulfill all of the requirements.  Contestants can be men or women, but you must be between the ages of 13-19 and must be in eighth to eleventh grade.  The student must be from a mainstreamed program or school for the deaf, and must be deaf or hard of hearing.  The contestants will be representing their school as a good role model and so they should follow their school rules.  Another requirement is fluency in ASL.  “The contestant should have fluent receptive and expressive sign communication skills and know a lot about American Sign Language’s background.” (Gage)  There are a lot of requirements to be in this pageant but it is well worth the time and effort.

            One other pageant is specifically for black women.  There are a few requirements that the contestants have to fulfill in order to be in the pageant.  The contestants must be single, never married, and must have never given birth to a child or be pregnant at the time of the pageant.  The woman has to be with in the age limit of 18-30.  There are quite a few more requirements that also go along with being in this pageant. (Williams 1)  This pageant is the opportunity for deaf, black women to compete with other women that are most like them.

            These are all different pageants that are specifically for deaf Americans.  Whether they are of different races, men or women, teens or adults, there is a pageant that they can compete in.  These pageants give all of the contestants a chance to compete within the deaf community and also to become spokes men or women for deaf culture in the American society.

Works Cited


 “Miss Deaf America Pageant History.”  Utah Association for the Deaf. 14 January 2005   <>

“NAD National Association of the Deaf.”  Miss Deaf America Pageant. National Association of the Deaf. 24 January 2005 <>

Williams, Toronja A. “A Black Deaf Queen Coming Into Her Own.”  National Black Deaf Advocates. 24 January 2005 <>

Gage, Roberta. “Mr./Miss Deaf Teen America.” Gallaudet University Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center. 24 January 2005. <>


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