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Ms. Wheelchair California at the Expo!

This has to be a first; the person elected Ms. Wheelchair California also works 7 shows a year for the Abilities Expos! 


When you see a person going as fast as her wheelchair can take her, rolling through the aisles with both her orange Expo shirt and a sash and crown, that’s Julienne Dallara. 


“At first I thought that I could never be Ms. Wheelchair” says Julienne, looking back. “Then I realized that the whole job is about advocacy, not just looking good. The whole point of the title is to bring awareness to those of us in wheelchairs, and to advocate for something we are passionate about.”  


For Dallara, the passion comes from working with non-profits and seeing the actual progress that people are making. But… 


“I see so many instances where we are doing the same thing over and over. Reinventing the wheel if you will. What if we could get the charities that are doing similar things to work together?”  


The Ms. Wheelchair California competition is an offshoot of the Ms. Wheelchair America competition. Currently 25 states have their own competition. The state title holders will meet in August to compete for the Ms. Wheelchair America title.


“I’m looking forward to meeting with all the other girls from around the country”  says Dallara. “It’s going to be great to see how we can help each other to achieve our collective goals.“

Julienne is used to being in the spotlight. Her early career was a singer/dancer/actress in London, New York, and Los Angeles, including 12 years of doing live comedy improv theatre. When she was paralyzed overnight by a rare disease, transverse myelitis, all that changed. 

“I thought I could continue my acting career in a wheelchair,” she remembers, frowning, “but the theatre owner said, ‘there’s nothing funny about being in a wheelchair’ and I was out.” 

Wanting to find others in her situation, she joined the board of WYNGS (When You Need Group Support) a pre-curser to the now vibrant Triumph-Foundation.  


“While working with these organizations I noticed a pattern – everyone does outreach, everyone does peer counseling, everyone has a resource list. Why can’t we put them together and be more efficient? The right hand doesn’t know what the left hand is doing! 


“Collaboration is Power. That’s my message. And I have another message that is important to spread to the world: Grab. Moments. of Joy. When you find a laugh, remember it through the day to pull you along. Revel in the little things. For me, a butterfly can make my day. Yeah, I live in pain but then I get busy and throw it off. Re-live one of those moments of joy. It works. I couldn’t do any of this without it!” 


The next Ms. Wheelchair California Competition is coming up March 9, 2025. Applications will be available soon at


Julienne is vehement about the 2025 Ms. WC California competition. “I am going to be there to pass along the crown, and I want to see at least 10 girls competing! I know that there are hundreds of girls out there who have something to say and the guts to say it. This is a great way to be heard! You have a built-in audience; what do you want the world to hear?” 


As she prepares for the Ms. Wheelchair  America competition, Julienne’s heart goes back to all the people she met who needed something – an introduction, a conversation, a resource – whom she has helped in her 28 years as a wheelchair user. 


“There’s a song from ‘Hello Dolly’ that says, “I have always been a woman who arranges things…” she muses. “Yeah, that’s me. I want people to connect and work together.”  

Julienne laughs. “And if I can do it in a tiara, so much the better!” 


Jolene Montgomery


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