The deaf student’s inspiration for competing in CSUN’s Miss Deaf Pageant came from a quote by the first deaf winner of the Miss America Pageant in 1995.
Twelve years later Manako Yabe won the title.
‘Heather was the first to quote ‘everything is possible in God’,’ said Yabe. ‘These words not only encouraged me to join the pageant, but pushed me forward to act on my dream of studying at a university in America.’
Yabe was the first international Japanese student to win in 2007 and currently works as the chair for the 2009 Miss Deaf CSUN Pageant.
This year’s pageant will be held tomorrow at the University Student Union Northridge Center.
The event gives deaf CSUN women the opportunity to enhance leadership skills, explore hidden talents and promote intellectual achievement, said Yabe.
‘When I won I received two scholarships, one from the National Center on Deafness and the other from Verizon,’ Yabe said. ‘The scholarship helped cover my international tuition, which is four times as much as a California resident’s tuition.’
Yabe said this year there are no scholarships. However for the first time the,Associated Students for the first time did approve $1500 to help fund the pageant.
The CSUN Miss Deaf Pageant was established in 1974 and is held every two years.
A related event, the Miss Deaf America Pageant, was established in 1973 as well as local state pageants like the Miss Deaf California Pageant.
Yabe said since 1973, eight out of four CSUN deaf students who competed have won the title of Miss Deaf America, with two of them being the first Asian and Latino CSUN deaf students to win.
Amy Wong, an Asian-American, was crowned Miss Deaf America in 1998 and Lauren Teruel, half black and half Mexican-American, was crowned Miss Deaf America in 2000.
‘One goal of the pageant is to teach contestants to learn about themselves, to foster independence, and to identify individual strengths and collaborative efforts,’ said Yabe.
Contestants compete for the title in three different areas: talent, private and on-stage interviews and evening gown.
The winner of CSUN’s pageant will be eligible to compete at the state level with the possibility of winning the title of Miss Deaf California.
The pageant contestants go through a day of workshops, where they uncover their personal and unique identities while mingling with other contestants.
‘The workshops help contestants get to know each other and share their experiences,’ said Yabe.
She said the experience is so important for deaf students because most of them never encountered such support through deaf organizations before.
One of this year’s contestant, Danielle Duran said she has learned a lot from the workshops especially getting to know all the girls involved.
‘My favorite part of the pageant is bonding with the other ladies,’ Duran said. ‘We really support each other.’
Duran is second generation contestant from her family to compete in CSUN’s Miss Deaf Pageant.
‘My aunt was in the pageant in the late 1970’s,’ Duran said. ‘I would have loved to have met her and ask her many questions and advice about pageants, but she has passed on.’
Miss Deaf CSUN adviser, Nina Treiman said she is very proud of the sub-committee and when it comes time to host an event like this, everyone in the deaf studies department gets involved.
‘I am so happy with the growth and development skills these students have gained,’ said Treiman. ‘It’s about them and I am proud of the work they have done.’
However, this year the winner will not receive a scholarship like Yabe did, said Treiman, because the CSUN Alumni Association didn’t offer it.
Further funding for the pageant comes the Mr. Deaf CSUN Pageant, held between the years of the Miss Deaf CSUN Pageant giving deaf men the opportunity to find their hidden talents as well.
The proceeds raised at the men’s pageant are contributed to the budget of the following Miss Deaf Pageant.
Yabe said the committee is looking forward to a great evening filled with ‘a group of talented women.’
‘This pageant is not just a beauty contest, it is a leadership program,’ Yabe said. ‘It enhances self-confidence and encourages all who seek deaf leadership and identities.’