Don’t look at me to handicap the Miss America Pageant in September. I do a lousy enough job picking winners of sporting events and political elections and I can’t remember the last time I saw a Miss America Pageant.
I will make an exception this year and make a point to watch the competition on television on Sept. 14. And I will go out on a limb and say that Miss Idaho, Sierra Anne Sandison of Twin Falls, has a decent shot at winning. No, she does not hail from the South, or Midwest, which produce long lines of past winners. A Miss Idaho has never won. But Sierra has something that few others have – a compelling story. And all she had to do was walk on stage during the swimsuit competition of the Miss Idaho Pageant with an insulin pump attached to her side.
BOOM! The social media exploded with a photo of this gorgeous 20-year-old woman confidently walking with her beautiful smile and perfect body. Her insulin pump suddenly became a fashion statement and she has encouraged others to “Show Your Pump.” Sierra has become an inspiration to 26 million people living in the United States who have diabetes and the nearly 80 million people who have pre-diabetes. She is proof that diabetes can be managed, the harmful effects can be reversed and diabetes does not stop people from living their dreams. The late Ron Santo, a Hall of Fame baseball player, had the disease and Chicago Bears Quarterback Jay Cutler has it.
I, too, am living proof that diabetes is manageable – although I’m no match to Sierra in terms of beauty, grace and charm. Better management has allowed me to overcome blindness and open-heart surgery and keep a mild case of kidney disease in check. I’m 64 years old and never felt better.
I enjoy hearing stories about people overcoming obstacles such as diabetes, so I was bowled over by Sierra’s story about winning the Miss Idaho Pageant and I’m sure many other people were, too.
Sierra, no doubt, will get some great coaching on her way to the Miss America competition. One of her supporters is Nicole Johnson, who knows a thing or two about winning pageants. She was Miss America in 1999 and won while wearing an insulin pump. Johnson has continued to stay involved with the American Diabetes Association and on the front lines of the war against this “silent killer.” Johnson’s story made Sierra realize it was OK to wear an insulin pump in competition and Sierra has inspired others, including 12-year-old McCall Salinas, Miss Idaho’s Outstanding Preteen. McCall, who has diabetes, was backstage during the Miss Idaho pageant, cheering on Sierra. After the event, McCall told her mom she was ready to get an insulin pump to better manage the disease.
“It brought me to tears,” Sierra wrote.
Seeing the photo of her walking the stage in the Miss Idaho contest doesn’t tell the story of the heartaches and challenges that came from being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes – which means her pancreas cannot produce insulin. She tells it well in her official Miss Idaho blog.
“My world was flipped upside down by my diabetes diagnosis,” she wrote. For a while, I pretended that I didn’t have diabetes, hoping it would go away. That led to crazy blood sugars, of course, and a very sick, grumpy and discouraged Sierra.”
In her case, denial led to acceptance, which opened the door for this young woman to be the inspiration she is.
So, does she have a chance to win? Let’s review the criteria: “Miss America represents the highest ideals. She is a combination of beauty, grace and intelligence, artistic and refined. She is the type which the American girl might well emulate.”
If this is the standard, then give her the crown now and play a clip of old Bert Parks belting out the tune, “Here she is …” No one could possibly argue that she isn’t “America’s ideal.”
But remember this if those stuffy judges give it to someone else. Sierra doesn’t need another crown to prove that she’s a winner in life.Share on Facebook