Miss Unique UA crowns inaugural queen


Meghan Mitchell | @pomegranate_27, Culture Editor

Miss Unique UA crowned its inaugural queen, Melissa Walker, who will appear in the upcoming Homecoming parade and work closely with SGA.  The pageant’s proceeds benefited the Walt Gary Scholarship in Special Education.

On a stage filled with twinkling crowns and sparkling gowns, what shone the brightest was the Miss Unique UA contestants themselves. Introduced individually by emcee and Miss University of Alabama 2020, Isabella Powell, each contestant took their shining moment to twirl, strut and smile across the stage. 

Miss Unique UA is a pageant spotlighting disabled women’s beauty and confidence. Katherine Beasley, the founder of the event, which made its debut this year, said she wants the pageant to help disabled women feel loved and supported at the University.

“I wanted it not to just be any pageant, I wanted it to be the University’s pageant,” said Beasley, a junior studying political science and the Student Government Association (SGA) director of disability services.  “I wanted the University to be showing these girls that we love them and we are so excited for them and that we want them to have the spotlight.”

Each contestant is a part of the University’s CrossingPoints program, an educational system with three tiers that allows students with disabilities to gain occupational and life skills. Beasley said that the program is important to her because not all schools offer these alternative learning options. Her sister, who was Beasley’s source of inspiration for the pageant, wasn’t able to continue her studies at the collegiate level because she didn’t have access to a program like CrossingPoints.

“It’s so incredible that they came [to UA],” Beasley said.  “I mean, think of how hard they had to work to get to this very moment. Because they worked so hard to get here, I think the University needs to show them how proud we are of them and we really got to do that today.”

The contestants were given individual awards like “most personality” and “best eyes,” but Melissa Walker, who’s getting her certificate in occupational studies (CCOS) with the CrossingPoints program, took home the grand title. 

Walker said she had no fear of the spotlight and was excited to take center stage at the Ferguson Center Theater for the pageant.  

“I will not be nervous on the stage,” Walker said. “I’m not a nervous woman.  I love being on the stage.”

Walker’s family was supportive of her as a competitor in the pageant. They made sure her nerves were at ease before she stepped onstage. 

“My mom said, ‘Hey, you got this girl, you can do this,’ and my dad always says, ‘Whatever is for you, is for you,’” Walker said.

Many of the contestants said in their onstage statements that being dressed up made them feel beautiful.  Farrah Sanders, who helped with the crowning process as Miss Black and Old Gold for the Alabama chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, said the pageant provides the platform for women to recognize this beauty in themselves.

“Disabilities or just being different doesn’t mean that you’re less-than,” Sanders said.  “You’re beautiful, you’re confident, you’re everything you’ve been called to be. We just have to give you the platform to feel that way and for others to see that as well.”

In addition to taking part in the Homecoming parade as Miss Unique UA 2019, Walker will have the opportunity to work closely with Beasley and SGA. Beasley wants disabled students’ perspectives on UA projects to be heard, and she hopes this role will allow more students like Walker to have “a seat at the table.” 

“If I have an idea about something that involves people with disabilities and how to make the campus better, I’m going to ask her about it,” Beasley said. “I’m going to say, ‘How do you feel about this? Do you feel that it’s needed? Do you feel that we shouldn’t have it?’ Just ask her all of her different opinions on the subject to make sure that someone with disabilities is truly heard.”

Walker plans to make a difference in her role as Miss Unique UA by loving and being kind to everyone. 

“I want to love people no matter what,” Walker said. “If they [are] mean to me, I will play nice and take the high road. I can always fight kindness towards mean. That’s who I am, and that’s who my mom raised me to be.”