GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The final round of the 50th annual Ms. Wheelchair America event was held Saturday night at Mary Free Bed Hospital.
Hospital staff live streamed the hosts while contestants participated from home via Zoom.
Christine Burke from California was crowned the winner. Burke was born with Spina Bifida and currently works for a talent agency in Los Angeles.
Burke campaigned on "putting disability back in diversity" and says she'll work to create better disability representation in media and workplaces over the next year.
"So many stories of people from what I’ve heard is like, 'If you’re Black and disabled, you only get to choose one or the other,'" said Burke. "It is really getting people to understand the multifacetes of disability and really see that people take pride in it.”
Watch the full event here:
This year’s contestants, consisting of 30 women with disabilities, gave their respective platform speeches Friday night, the rehabilitation center tells us. Their speeches can be viewed here.
We’re told the event is not a typical beauty contest and that judges crowned the contestant that was most “accomplished and articulate” in advocating for those with with disabilities.
“The goal of today’s event, or the national competition, is to give these women and opportunity to come together, share their experiences, gain resources, and ultimately take the resources that they gain and bring them back to their communities and continue working on their advocacy efforts," said Stephanie Deible, Ms. Wheelchair America Executive Director.