Miss Washington USA Contestant Born With AMC Hopes To Empower Others
PEOPLE interviewed Miss WA USA contestant Madeline Irwin about her hope that her disability will empower others.
“I knew I wanted to someday advocate for people with physical disabilities like myself,” the Port Angeles, Washington native tells PEOPLE of her decision to enter her first pageant. “The only issue was that I wasn’t ready for a while because I had a long way to go to accepting and loving myself. So I worked really hard with self reflection and using social media and surrounding myself with people who had morals and values like I do, I finally reached a point where I felt confident enough to share my journey about accepting yourself as you are.”
“The challenges I faced mostly, and what I’m advocating for now, is that there was no representation for someone like me that I could look up to growing up,” she says. “So it was really difficult to know, as someone who is disabled, who I can be and what I can do because I wasn’t able to see that around me.”
“There is a pretty strong stigma around the word ‘disability,’ a negative stigma. People think of ‘disability’ and they think of someone who needs to be pitied, and so I felt like growing up I didn’t want to be associated with that for a long time, until I could use the word ‘disabled’ to empower myself so that’s what I’m doing now.”