WHAT’S BEING CLAIMED:
- A 22-year-old University of South Florida student will be the first contestant to compete for the Miss Florida crown in Lakeland this month.
- Rachel Barcellona has been joining pageants since she was a kid, sings and has performed at Madison Square Garden.
- Barcellona, who says that “pageantry is also spectrum” spoke at the United Nations’ World Autism Awareness Day event this year.
A woman in Tampa Bay is making history as the first woman with autism to compete in Miss Florida pageant in Lakeland this month.
“I was basically promised that I would never graduate any school really or have any friends. Pretty much everything bad was going to happen to me because I have autism,” Rachel Barcellona said.
Rachel’s family has her back, especially her mother, who didn’t like the negative feedback.
“She was like I will be dead before that happens. So I wouldn’t be anywhere without my mom who is a nurse practitioner and she is just wonderful, I love her,” added Barcellona.
The 22-year-old began joining pageants when she was five and continued until fourth grade. Then she stopped joining and took a break.
“I had depression and anxiety in middle school so then I resumed when I was thirteen and that is when I really got into it because it helped me make friends and build my confidence,” Rachel explained.
Rachel gained her confidence back and is now preparing for Miss Florida later this month.
Aside from the “purple interview dress with the bows” that she will be wearing on the pageant, the University of South Florida student also has her opera voice ready. She recently had the privilege of singing the national anthem for a Tampa Bay Lightning game at Amalie Arena.
“Usually they bring up my disability,” Rachel said, referring to the judges. “So I would say it doesn’t affect me negatively and I am very capable of inspiring people and holding a title.”
“I would say that pageantry is also spectrum. You have to find the right ones for you. And just go from there because it can really really make a girl more confident and empower her to be an amazing woman,” she continued.
The winner of the Miss Florida competition that will be held on June 25 will compete in the Miss America pageant next year.
Source: News Channel 8