“Normal is a Dryer Setting: Living with Autism”: This is the platform slogan of Alexis Wineman, Miss Montana and sister of theater major Danielle Wineman. Wineman uses her position to advocate for autism awareness. She is the first Miss America contestant to be diagnosed with autism, as well as the youngest contestant this year.
Wineman won the People’s Choice contest during the competition on January 12. Votes were casted based on contestant’s video submissions in the weeks prior to the show. Wineman’s video received the most votes, however, she was quickly released from the contest soon after the top 15 were announced. In a strange twist, the officials of Miss America decided to throw in a “Judges’ Choice” contestant, making the top 15, the top 16.
“Miss America was stupid to ignore her as people’s choice. America chose her to represent our country. They should have considered the people’s choice. Her platform was what America wanted to talk about,” Xandii Barber, a senior theater major, said.
Wineman was released directly after the swimsuit section of Miss America. Had Wineman continued in the contest, she would have distinguished herself further from the pack in the talent portion; her talent was a comedic monologue, an unusual choice for the Miss America contest. She also would have competed in evening wear and the interview segments.
In her various television interviews weeks prior to Miss America, Wineman described the years before she was diagnosed, saying she was relieved to find out she had autism because she always knew there was something wrong.
Because Wineman is the sister of a Stephens’ woman, the support for her on campus was phenomenal. Many students gathered in various areas of campus to watch Miss America together. One such student was Taylor Shaw, another senior theatre major.
“I think Alexis is beautiful and she should have won Miss America,” Shaw said. Many students were outraged when Alexis was released from the competition.
Danielle Wineman was heavily involved with her sister’s Miss America campaign.
“I put things on Facebook and contacted all the people I knew, people in other cities, back home…I sent emails to people with good connections telling them Alexis’ story and they posted on Facebook,” Danielle Wineman said. “People made Facebook events and within an hour 5,000 people were invited.”
Facebook wasn’t the only form of social media used to promote Alexis. “We also created a Twitter campaign and just started tweeting people, famous and not famous,” Wineman said. “I sent a tweet to Ellen DeGeneres, Lady Gaga and Sarah Palin. They didn’t answer. But Alexis’ publicist got Maria Shiver, Jenny McCarthy and Doug Flutie to tweet about her.”
Wineman is extremely proud of her sister and all she’s learned from the situation.
“She’s learned that she’s not defined by her situations, but she defines her situations,” Wineman said, “she’s also learned how to use a curling iron.”
Alexis Wineman’s story is an inspirational one. A girl who has faced her difficulties head on and ended up in the Miss America pageant is one to encourage all who have ever felt a little different. Danielle Wineman had this to say about those who don’t believe in others: “Never underestimate anyone, they’ll always surprise you.”