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Born This Way,
Winning This Way

Jasmine Babers

People of all ages can be guilty of caring too much about what other people think. There is a fear that our authentic selves do not measure up in some way. We are too tall, too short, and too heavy, our noses are too big, we are too pale, too dark or our hair is too kinky or too thin. Our insecurities cause us to lust for others talents, money, body image or popularity.

In spite of empowering quotes we post daily on social media, insecurities can stop us from pursuing our goals. Those insecurities can also cause us to look for weaknesses in others to make us feel more successful.

What if we accepted the person we were born to be, challenges and all. What then would we become? I believe we would become whatever we wanted to be. Madison Lewis of Memphis, Tennessee was born with Autism, but it has not been a diagnosis that has limited her hopes and dreams. Madison began participating in pageants when she was 4 years old. It was important to her mother to encourage her to be outgoing and allow her to create awareness about Autism in her community. In spite of the challenges that come with her disability, she pursues her passions without insecurity. She will charm you with her smile that is genuinely joyful.

Madison's mother signed her up to compete in the 2017 Jabberwock Pageant, sponsored by the Delta Sigma Theta Memphis Alumnae Chapter. There are many pageants in the United States that work to level the playing field for participants, like "Miss Plus America" for plus size young women or the "Miss You Can Do It Pageant", specifically for girls with disabilities. The Delta Jabberwock Pageant is a cultural fund-raising activity and is inclusive, welcoming all girls. The word Jabberwock, copyrighted by Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., was taken from Lewis Carroll's tale, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. In the poem "Jabberwocky," it was customary for creatures throughout the kingdom to gather annually to present a gala pageant. The first "Jabberwock" was presented in 1925 in Boston.

The 2017 Memphis contestants participated in enriching and fun activities to enhance their leadership and communication skills. These young women were also provided a day of seminars with Deltas on various topics from effective communication to self-branding and the gift of giving through philanthropy. The group raised $64,000, earmarked for scholarships to be given to young women of promise and ability. Madison Lewis, with support from her family raised more money than any other contestant. It was an outstanding group of young women. The 1st runner up was Hali Smith, a senior at Central High School. The 2nd runner up and academic winner was Mariah Rhodes who is now embarking on her freshman year at Tennessee State University.

Photo of the pageant winners

Like many other pageants, there is a talent portion and this group of girls were very talented. The contestants performed a variety of acts including dance, spoken word and vocal. Madison danced to a medley of MJ hits wearing a classic Michael Jackson jacket from the music video "Beat it" with the iconic high water pants and white socks.

If she was nervous during her performance she didn't let it show, but then she is used to performing in front of crowds.

Madison is a ninth grade student at Germantown High School and she is a member of the cheerleading squad. She has won a National Cheerleading Championship at Disney World and she recently cheered during half-time at the Grizzlies vs. Houston Rockets game.

As for her future plans, Madison aspires to attend an HBCU and own a business after graduating. Madison reminds us to accept the person we were born to be and that the only limits we have are those we place on ourselves. If you are interested in participating in the Miss Jabberwock Scholarship Program please email a statement of interest to macjabberwock17@gmail.com. Orientation details will be available Spring 2018.