Talent, advocacy shine at Miss Inspirational

May 6, 2018

When Miss Massachusetts Jillian Zucco asked Kimberly Oberlander to introduce herself to the audience at the third annual Miss Inspirational pageant on May 5, Oberlander told her: "I like the TV show Bob's Burgers."

"I hear you do a good impression, could you do it for us?" Zucco prompted her.

Oberlander grinned at the pageant host. "Inappropriate," she said.

Oberlander was one of several contestants vying for a title at Miss Inspirational, a pageant program intended for special-needs or disabled women. Hosted by Zucco, a Mattapoisett resident and reigning Miss Massachusetts, the event is designed to be a confidence-builder focusing on ability and empowerment.

Four contestants vied for the "Little Miss Inspirational" title, for girls aged eight and under. Nine contestants fought gamely for the "Teen Miss Inspirational" title, granted to a girl aged between 13 and 19. The final seven finalists were vying for the "Miss Inspirational" crown, awarded to contestants twenty years of age or above.

The contestants introduced themselves, performed a talent or skill, and then paraded in eveningwear, formal dresses meant to showcase their inner and outer beauty, according to Zucco.

Several contestants showed off their dancing and singing skills. Peyton Manteiga sang "Fight Song," by Rachel Platten, while Sarah Cashman performed a hip-hop dance to "Good Feeling." Molly Purdy performed "Goodnight Someone" from the musical "The Music Man," and Jamie Piro received a large round of applause after her rendition of "How Far I'll Go," from the movie "Moana."

Other contestants showed off unique skills. Willow Silveira showed off her sign language skills, while Nicole Pereira chose to spoke about a recent experience: her visit to the Massachusetts State House for Autism Awareness Day on April 2.

"We advocated for things that are important, like long-term housing for those with disabilities. I left the State House really proud that I'd advocated for myself and my peers," she explained.

When all of the talents had been performed, and each contestant had appeared, it was time for the crowing of the division winners. Each contestant received a tiara, and the division winners also received a sash.

For her singing skills and cheerful performance, Peyton Manteiga was named "Little Miss Inspirational." Molly Purdue's musical rendition earned her the title of "Teen Miss Inspirational." She also won the "People's Choice Award" for her performance.

Jamie Piro was the overall winner of the "Miss Inspirational" title.

Nicole Pereira was awarded the "Spirit of Miss Inspirational" award, a $100 prize, meant to reward a contestant who had truly embodied the idea of the program. "She was happy for everyone and supportive of everyone, and everything she's done so far is amazing," said Zucco of Pereira's State House advocacy.