When Miss Montana takes the stage at the 92nd Miss America Pageant, she’ll be doing much more than modeling a gorgeous ball gown.
Alexis Wineman will make history as the first ever contestant diagnosed with autism to take part in the beauty pageant.
The 18-year-old (who is also the youngest to compete) spoke with ABC News about her experience:
“The girl you’re seeing right now is not the girl you would have seen 10 years ago. I have overcame a lot. I have overcome so many of my symptoms.”
Autism affects at least 1 in 88 children in the United States, and is a disorder of neural development characterized by impaired social interaction and communication, and by restricted and repetitive behavior.
Although Wineman is considered highly functioning, she was often ridiculed for her speech impediment and shy nature as a child.
“I would stay in my room for hours, not wanting to talk to anyone,” she said. “Growing up, I barely hung out with anyone and that’s because I was afraid of being laughed at.”
Wineman credits her family for encouraging her to follow her dreams, and giving her the courage to try new things.
“Growing up, all I wanted was to be normal. I just wanted to fit in with everyone else. Looking back, I realized it was a waste of time, because normal doesn’t exist. If we could just accept people for their differences, it will make life for our children and for ourselves much, much easier.”
Watch the recent high school graduate will compete along with 52 other contestants in the live broadcast Saturday night on ABC.
The pageant, telecast from Planet Hollywood in Las Vegas, will be hosted by The Bachelor’s Chris Harrison and our very own Brooke Burke-Charvet.
You can also watch Wineman’s full interview with ABC News below: