Leona and Norman anxiously awaited Pearl’s appearance for the brief questionnaire. As she walked onto the stage, she showed no hint of nervousness, but the grip Leona had on Norman’s hand betrayed hers.
The judge asked for Pearl’s name, which she proudly announced.
“Well,” the judge said. “Tell me, Pearl. What is something you find to be curious?” As fast as a speeding bullet, Pearl answered…”CATS.” The judge let out a hearty belly laugh, and the others joined. “That,” he said, “was a very clever answer.”
The evening gown competition was next, and Pearl gleamed as she did her required strut across the stage, with no detectable falter. Leona and Norman couldn’t have been more proud.
The talent competition was next. Leona and Norman had no idea what Pearl was going to do. They quietly hoped that she hadn’t decided to sing or dance, although they would have never discouraged her.
All were surprised when Pearl walked out on the stage, and began to speak.
“I wasn’t blessed with natural talent.
I wasn’t blessed with great beauty. I wasn’t blessed with vast knowledge, but I was blessed with a good heart. A heart that sings with joy when I am happy.
A heart that openly bleeds when I am sad.
Like everyone, I have hopes and dreams, and fears and worries.
I know how it feels to be different, and I know how it feels to be special.
I know how it feels to love, and I know how it feels to be loved. I know these things because that’s what my parents taught me.
Words may not be considered a talent, but these words are for my parents, who always made me believe that I could do, and be anything.”
After she thanked the judges, there wasn’t a dry eye in the building.
I believe that everyone deserves a standing ovation at least once in their lives, and that night, Pearl got hers.
She made the first cut, but she didn’t win. What she did do, was make history and she did indeed become famous.
She was the first ever Miss Alabama contestant, with Down Syndrome.