Crowning achievement: Maddie Lorenzen prepares to oversee fifth Iowa Miss Amazing Pageant

Crowning achievement: Maddie Lorenzen prepares to oversee fifth Iowa Miss Amazing Pageant

07 Feb 2017    By Kelcey Buck

A brother with a profound intellectual disability, a sister who competed in pageants, and a passion for helping others – that combination of characteristics helped lead Maddie Lorenzen to become the state director of the Iowa Miss Amazing Pageant as a high school junior. 

Lorenzen, a senior speech-language pathology major at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is now preparing to direct her fifth Iowa Miss Amazing Pageant, an annual event for girls and women with disabilities. The 2017 pageant will be held Feb. 17-18 at Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs, Iowa. 

“I believe it gives girls with disabilities another opportunity to gain confidence in a supportive and fun environment,” Lorenzen said. “It focuses on their abilities, rather than their disabilities. The participants also get paired with buddies, which is a good promotion of inclusion because it helps us understand disabilities and realize that we all have similarities.” 

A native of Omaha, Lorenzen and her family started volunteering with Miss Amazing in 2010. The organization’s founder, Jordan Somer, had competed in pageants with Lorenzen’s older sister and invited the family to help. At that time, Nebraska was the only state with a Miss Amazing Pageant. In 2011, the organization expanded to hold pageants in nine other states, including Missouri, where Lorenzen’s sister became the first state director. 

Somer recognized Lorenzen’s passion for Miss Amazing and suggested she begin the Iowa Miss Amazing Pageant. Lorenzen agreed, becoming the state director during her junior year in high school, and hosting the state’s first Miss Amazing Pageant as a senior in 2013. 

“It was a whirlwind. Fortunately, I had seen the Nebraska pageants, whereas many of the other state directors have never seen a Miss Amazing pageant,” Lorenzen said of establishing the Iowa Miss Amazing Pageant.

Her first obstacle was finding a venue. After things didn’t work out with several high schools and churches, Lorenzen reached an agreement to host the event on Iowa Western’s campus. She then worked quickly to raise the money to pay for the venue, hosting a powderpuff football game at her high school. 

There were stories in the Omaha World-Herald, The Des Moines Register and The Daily Nonpareil in Council Bluffs promoting the Iowa Miss Amazing Pageant. Lorenzen also contacted as many special education teachers and paraprofessionals across Iowa as possible, explaining the event and sharing videos from the Missouri pageant. 

“It was hard to get people to take me seriously at first because they hear pageant and think of ‘Toddlers & Tiaras’,” Lorenzen said. “But once I got the first few parents to sign up, they really helped spread the word.”

Lorenzen’s goal was to have 25 participants at the inaugural Iowa Miss Amazing Pageant. She ended up with 50, which was the largest state pageant at the time. It has grown every year since, and in 2017, she will welcome 100 contestants to the stage during the two-day event. 

There are eight age divisions with participants at this year’s Iowa Miss Amazing Pageant ranging in age from five to 67. The oldest division, Shooting Stars, and the youngest, Rising Stars, don’t have queens crowned, while the other six divisions will have a queen chosen to advance to the National Miss Amazing Pageant.

This year’s event will feature four divisions Friday and four Saturday. After arriving and registering, participants performing in the optional talent portion of the pageant head to rehearsals. Lorenzen leads an orientation with the parents, and the volunteers who make up the contestants’ “buddies” are briefed.

“The friendships I see grow throughout the day are incredible,” Lorenzen said of the relationships between the participants and their buddies. “Many of the participants truly see their buddies as their best friends and rely on them for support. Even if they don’t express it, the buddies mean a lot to the participants and I always remind volunteers of that if the day gets long or they are dealing with difficult tasks.”

Participants then meet their two buddies, who spend the rest of the day with them, before rotating through stage rehearsals, personal interviews with five separate judges, and friend activities. Before the final show, contestants head to personal prep time, where students from local hair schools style their hair and their buddies apply makeup. In the meantime, dinner is also provided.

The final shows, which begin at 7 p.m. each night, feature an opening number, followed immediately by each participant introducing herself and passing the microphone down the line. Next comes the talent show.

“The nice thing about talent is we try to keep it organized so the contestants can sit in the audience and watch because it’s so fun to have them cheer each other on,” Lorenzen said.

Following an intermission, there is an evening wear portion before the crowning ceremony takes place. Although six of the eight divisions have queens crowned, Lorenzen emphasized that everyone who takes part wins.

“Crowning is really special because every girl gets a crown and a trophy so they all feel like winners because they are,” Lorenzen said. “It takes a lot of guts to go out on stage and give it your all. I get anxiety just giving my director’s speech and these girls don’t hesitate to strut out on stage like it’s nothing. It’s so impressive – I wish I had the confidence that a lot of the participants have.”

This year, Lorenzen will take her final bow as the Iowa Miss Amazing state director. As she prepares to enter graduate school to continue her pursuit of a career in speech-language pathology, Lorenzen will give way to her friend from high school, Kayleigh Begley, who helped co-found the pageant and currently serves as the assistant state director. Lorenzen will assume the assistant director role, allowing her to continue to be involved but to a lesser degree.

“This position is constant communication with people so I don’t know if I’d be able to give the time and devotion the pageant deserves with grad school,” Lorenzen explained. “Being the assistant, I can help in different ways, especially the day of the pageant. It was a really hard decision, but it’s time for a new director. I just want it to continue to grow and still be the best it can be, and I think it will.”

Reflecting on her five years leading Iowa Miss Amazing, Lorenzen’s passion shines through her smile as she talks about what the event means to her.

“It stems from having a brother with a profound intellectual disability and having people tell him he can’t do this or that. A lot of these girls have heard that too – they hear the ‘you can’ts’ in life – so this is something that they CAN do and feel as comfortable as possible. The most rewarding thing is seeing how much these girls grow and how much everyone appreciates them throughout the day. They should always feel that way.”

To learn more about the Iowa Miss Amazing Pageant, visit The 2017 pageant final shows begin at 7 p.m. Feb. 17 and 18 at The Arts Center at Iowa Western Community College, located at 2700 College Road in Council Bluffs. Tickets are $10 each, with all proceeds going toward offsetting costs for future Iowa Miss Amazing Pageants. 

Special Education and Communication Disorders
College of Education and Human Sciences