Participants impress at Miss Inspirational pageant
MATTAPOISETT — Individuals with special needs shone at the Miss Inspirational pageant on May 11, wearing gowns and tuxes and showing off talents ranging from comedy to facials.
2017 Miss Massachusetts, Jillian Zucco, organized and emceed the pageant. Zucco was inspired by her cousin, Olivia Guillotte, to create Miss Inspirational because Guillotte didn’t have the same opportunities to perform as Zucco did. In 2016, Guillotte became the first Teen Miss Inspirational.
This year, four evaluators judged the nineteen participants, while spectators gathered at Old Rochester Regional High School’s Auditorium to cheer contestants on. Over 30 businesses and organizations sponsored the event and 32 volunteered with it.
“It’s important for our community to support our special needs individuals,” said Zucco, “We don’t have any public events where people can come support something our special needs individuals are doing. It’s really important for them to come here and to have a night that’s just focused on their abilities and celebrating achievements.”
Every performance ended with enthusiastic applause.
Lily Ouimette won Little Miss Inspirational, Nicole Gendreau won Teen Miss Inspirational and Audrey McDonnell won Miss Inspirational. The winner of Little Mr. Inspirational was Isaiah Benoit.
Everyone else was called up and crowned by their backstage buddy.
18-year-old pageant participant Olivia Bennett, who has participated for three years, said she loves the pageant so much that she and her friends start practicing for next year the day after the pageant.
“I love being a star. Ever since I was little, when my family comes over, I was always doing dances for them,” said Bennett, “I think just being on stage was kind of like my passion.”
23-year-old Nicole Pereira participates every year. Pereira spoke at the pageant about her talk with Massachusetts legislators last year on Autism Awareness Day about laws and regulations involving children and adults with special needs. She also speaks at a panel for young adults to answer questions about autism.
“I live by Miss Inspirational’s motto, focusing on abilities, raising awareness and breaking barriers,” said Pereira.