Beauty is in the eye of the beholder but beauty in its truest sense just cannot be denied. 18-year-old Alexis Wineman, the reigning Miss Montana, always knew there was something about her that wasn’t the norm. At age 11 she was proven correct when she was diagnosed with autism. Up until that point in her life Wineman was shy and afraid of the unknown she sensed that made her different. However, after hearing her diagnoses she began to embrace her inborn ability to stand out. With a supportive family behind her, she worked her way to captain of her school’s cheerleading team and in turn was invited to appear in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Seven years later her undeniable beauty, inside and out, would crown her as Miss Montana.
After earning her crown this past June, Wineman and her mother, Kimberley Butterworth, travelled over 7,000 miles across her home state of Montana, visiting schools, hospitals, conferences, and (of course) parades to present her message “Normal is Just a Dryer Setting, Living with Autism.”
“I say why fit in when you were born to stand out,” said Wineman. “Being different is not something to look down on, but to be embraced. I want to talk to kids with autism too and share with them that it’s nothing to be ashamed of.”
Butterworth acknowledges that the demands that come with being Miss Montana have begun to take its toll on her daughter, but also mentions that her coping skills are undoubtedly a strength of hers. What gives her daughter the most anxiety these days, while she prepares for the Miss America pageant, is walking in heels.
“I was never a girl to walk in heels, and I did not prepare,” said Wineman. “That was the hardest part.”
As is customary in all pageants, Miss America contestants will have to showcase a special or unique talent. Stage or no stage, Wineman’s will be on display and is one that she has worked on her entire life: showing others the beauty within themselves by being an example.
Executive director of the Miss Montana Scholarship Program Jan Holden said of Wineman, “She’s a pretty special girl (that’s) got grace and poise. She’s come a long way, and it’s her doing.” Hopefully the judges at the Miss America Pageant will see the same. In a hypercritical atmosphere where beauty is at its most subjective, it will be interesting to see how far society has come as well.