Alexis Wineman will take the stage in this weekend’s Miss America pageant, representing the state of Montana. The 18-year-old beauty is not only the youngest contestant in this year’s competition, but the first ever autistic Miss America contestant.
Wineman, a native of Cut Bank, MT, will make history as she lines up with fellow 2013 Miss America contestants. Diagnosed at age 11, Wineman struggled in her early teen years to fit in with classmates.
Wineman, who experiences “very mild symptoms,” reportedly struggles with communication at times, and says she often “takes things too literally.”
The teen’s talent in the competition is listed as “comedic monologue,” and Miss Montana currently spends her time raising Autism awareness. In her online finalist video, Wineman explains that if she should win Miss America, she will use the title to spread further awareness of the disorder. “Most people do not understand what autism is,” Wineman explains in the video. “And one in 88 people having some form of autism — this understanding is becoming more and more necessary.”
Wineman goes on to explain, “We cannot cure what is not a sickness. But we can begin to understand autism, and help those with the condition to unlock the potential that lies within all of us.”
Wineman, according to The Daily Mail, had difficulties socializing with classmates. The teen notes that socializing, “even when I wanted to, was awkward to say the least. I wouldn’t get their jokes half the time. I took everything so literally.”
At her family’s prompting, the shy teen took to cheerleading, and ultimately excelled. As the captain of her squad, she performed in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in 2011.
Wineman was crowned Miss Montana last June, and life since then has had its challenges. Wineman’s mother, Kimberly Butterworth, notes that the lack of schedule can be hard for her daughter, and that she has, at times, “struggled.”
The contestant was diagnosed with Pervasive Developmental Disorder with borderline Asperger’s Syndrome, the syndrome that has been thrust into headlines after the Newtown school shootings. The shooter, Adam Lanza, suffered from Asperger’s syndrome, according to a variety of media outlets.
Autism aside, Wineman said the most difficult part of the pageant is walking in heels.
“I was never a girl to walk in heels, and I did not prepare. That was the hardest part,” she told The Daily Mail.
“It’s amazing how people don’t accept other people just because they’re different,” Wineman notes of her mission to raise Autism awareness. “Being different is not something to look down on, but to be embraced. People need to understand.”
Do you think the next Miss American could be autistic?