Last month, Michigan native Alyssa Patrias made history when she became the first woman with Down syndrome to compete in a Miss Michigan competition. On August 26, Patrias was a contestant in the Miss Downriver pageant, preliminary event in the Miss Michigan contest, which is the precursor to the national Miss America event. While she didn’t take home the ultimate prize, she was voted Miss Congeniality by her fellow pageant sisters.
“It was amazing,” Patrias told the Detroit Free Press of her experience. “It was a great night. My dress was so long and red. It fit like a princess dress. I looked so beautiful in it.”
This was not the first pageant for Patrias, who was born with Down syndrome and a heart defect that required her to undergo open-heart surgery at just 10 weeks old. The 20-year-old had previously taken part in noncompetitive, inclusive events for people with and without disabilities, but her mother, Sue Cameron, said that watching her daughter confidently compete in the Miss Downriver pageant moved her to tears.
“I didn’t know that Alyssa wanted to do what her peers did—to be in a real pageant,” Cameron said.
As PopSugar reported, the director of the Miss Downriver event had asked Patrias if she was interested in participating in the event, and while Cameron had “reservations,” her daughter was ready for the challenge. Patrias secured the required donations and paperwork needed to compete, and she proceeded to devote six weeks to preparing for the big night. For the talent portion of the evening, Patrias performed Phil Collins’ “You’ll Be In My Heart” and she practiced tirelessly for the interview round with the judges.
“As I watched her practice every day, my heart swelled with pride as I could see the determination in her eyes and her self-confidence building,” Cameron told PopSugar.
While Patrias dealt with a few nerves during the dress rehearsal for the show, she was able to overcome her fears in time for the big night. Cameron said she encouraged her daughter to hold on to a silver bracelet that read “she believed she could, so she did” when she needed courage, and Patrias walked out onto the pageant stage clutching her wrist.
“She may not be as poised or have the grace that the other girls have, but she went up there and gave it her all,” Cameron concluded. “That’s all I can ask for. She was proof—it may not have been perfect—but she still did it.”
(H/T: Detroit Free Press)