Youngest contestant takes first runner-up spot

Published on Friday, 26 July 2013 19:42 - Written by By Kelly Gooch kgooch@tylerpaper.com

Olivia LeVoy didn’t get the title, but she walked away a big winner.

The 20-year-old Bullard High School graduate recently competed for the title of Ms. Wheelchair USA, and was chosen as the first runner-up. Ms. LeVoy, the youngest of the   contestants, also received other recognition.

“I’m feeling really good about it …” she said shortly after returning home. “I’m excited for this opportunity, and even more excited that they’ve asked me to try out again.”

During the national competition week, which took place July 16 to 20 in Ohio, she said participants dressed as their favorite fairy tale character, in keeping with the theme “Once Upon a Time.” Her choice was Ariel from “The Little Mermaid.”

“Ariel dreamed of being able to walk on dry land,” she said. “I dream, and I achieve. I achieve my dreams.”

Among the other parts of the week were interviews, parties and a luncheon.

Ms. LeVoy said contestants viewed a playground accessible for those with disabilities. She plans to try to get a similar playground in this area.

Ms. LeVoy always wanted to be in beauty pageants but wasn’t sure if it was physically possible.

At age 4, she was diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy type 3, which she has described as a neuromuscular disease making her leg, arm and back muscles weak.

Ms. LeVoy has said the disease makes it difficult to stand and walk for long distances, so she didn't think she could participate in a beauty pageant. That was until her mother and grandmother learned about Ms. Wheelchair USA.

"I didn't believe it, then I saw, and I thought, 'I really want to do this.' So I got on their website to fill out an application, and a few months later, I was crowned Ms. Wheelchair Texas, (USA)," she said earlier this year.

Ms. LeVoy has been in a wheelchair since her freshman year of high school.

She also was involved in the speech and debate team and has said a lot of her speaking skills were taken from that and Future Farmers of America.

Additionally, she was in choir at Owens Elementary School and played in band her freshman year at Robert E. Lee High School.

Ms. LeVoy called her latest endeavor — competing for Ms. Wheelchair USA — “probably the best experience I’ve ever had.”

She said it was great to be around other women in wheelchairs.

“The experience was just unforgettable, and is something I’ll remember until the day I die. I wish everyone could witness these people,” she said.

“We don’t accept handouts or pity. I think everyone needs to witness a (Ms.) Wheelchair USA pageant and get to know the girls. It would change their mind (about) people with disabilities.”

Her mother, Amanda LeVoy, said her daughter has accomplished a lot, but seeing her with the other women with disabilities was special.

“I’m just honored to be her mother. She is an amazing young woman …” she said. “I’m just so proud I have this opportunity to be with her through this, and see how amazing she is in public and the public’s eye.” 

Additionally, she said being backstage with the women opened her eyes more to what the women are accomplishing or have accomplished.

Moving forward, Olivia LeVoy said she will speak to different schools and organizations in Texas and “hopefully get the ball rolling so Texas is one of the top states for accessibility for people with disabilities.”

Her specific platform has been "motivation — we can do it," and her advice earlier this year to other girls: “There are always options for you whether you're in a wheelchair or not. You have a purpose. You have a life.”

She said she plans on doing more in the community and wants to get the word out in Texas that people with disabilities aren’t entirely handicapped.

“We have a head. We have a heart. We need to be treated like human beings,” Ms. LeVoy said.

Ms. LeVoy plans to transfer to Texas A&M University with the goal of becoming an agriculture teacher or agriculture lawyer. 

She also owns her own show cattle company: Rhinestone Cattle Co.

She said she wants to compete again and will go for the title next year.