A teenager in Alabama is celebrating a win, after being crowned Miss Photogenic at the Miss Saraland pageant. The 17-year-old girl, who has autism, was awarded the title on January 22. “I was surprised, and I was glad they called my name to be Miss Photogenic,” the 17-year-old said after the results were declared at the pageant.
Jada Braxton’s mother, Danisha, who is extremely proud of her daughter, shared the significance of this win. “By her being autistic, one of the characteristic traits is not being able to make direct eye contact, especially when she’s taking pictures,” explained. “For her to win just based off of her picture is just outstanding.”
“By her winning Miss Photogenic, she is a face now to autism. This is autism, this is what autism looks like,” added Danisha. She also shared her daughter’s story on Instagram alongside a sweet message that read, “You have done it once again. You refuse to be labeled. You refuse to be held to limits.”
“The judges chose you for you,” she added, noting that Jada’s win was actually “a big deal” for the autism community. “I betcha if anyone could tell those judges that the person they chose as Miss Photogenic has special needs…they would be shocked.” In yet another post, Danisha recalled her daughter telling her that she wanted to join the pageant saying, “Mom I want other autistic girls to know that they can do this too.”
“You are joy. You are laughter. You are impromptu dance movements. You are the rainbow behind any rainy day. You are truly LOVE. You are an inspiration to so many people. You do not let your autism stop you from dreaming and achieving. It is such an honor and a blessing to be your mom,” expressed the doting mother in yet another post.
Jada, who was diagnosed with autism at the age of 7, shared the reason behind her decision to participate in the pageant. “[I want] autistic girls to know that they have a voice,” she expressed, sharing her plans of entering the pageant again next year. After the news of high schoolers’ win spread, advocacy organization Autism Speaks shared the same on its Instagram page.
“Jada refuses to let her autism limit her from achieving goals that she sets for herself. She was recently selected as Miss Photogenic 2022 in her school pageant. Why is this a big deal? Jada is autistic and sometimes has a hard time keeping and making direct eye contact, especially when taking pictures. Also when a lot of people see and meet Jada, they say ‘Well she doesn’t look autistic.’ So her winning this award lets people know that autism doesn’t have a ‘look,'” read their statement.
“Jada is beautiful both inside and out. Jada continues to knock down barriers and educate her peers on autism. She wants other girls with autism to know that they can and will do anything they set their minds to. They are not defined by their autism. She wants to be a voice for other girls with autism,” it concluded.