Wow. I cannot believe it has been only a few weeks since I won Ms. Wheelchair CA 2022. This has been a lifelong dream for me. I remember going every year since I was kid to the Abilities expo with my Dad.
During college, I remember during one of those Expo visits seeing Ms Wheelchair CA. It was amazing to meet someone holding that title. Everyone knows of the competitions for Ms. California or Ms. America, but I hadn’t known there was a Ms. Wheelchair one. Sadly, it is not advertised enough in the media. We know of the competition in the close knit disabled community, but it is not broadcast enough in the outside world for others to know. Hence my platform, Disability Representation in the Media.
Ever since that meeting with Ms. Wheelchair California and others after her, I have always wanted to find myself in that role. To be an advocate and help others like me find their voice. This year’s competition has been a fantastic experience.
When I saw on Facebook that The Ms Wheelchair California Institute was still accepting applications this year and that it will be done virtually, I instantly sent in my application. From then on, it has been a whirlwind of activity. I spent a few weeks working on my speech and preparing myself for the interviews. The Institute was an immense help with their coaching sessions. Rosie was very patient and assisted me with finding ways to shorten my speech. Those who know me already know how much of a talker I can be.
The first day started off with a Ms. Wheelchair California Social Hour. I got the chance to meet my fellow contestants. Both ladies were very nice and most welcoming. We got to do a fun scavenger hunt hosted by former Ms Wheelchair California 2019 Angela Piazza. It was very fun! We picked items from the scavenger lists to share with the group that included our favorite books, color, something that made us smile, something fuzzy we own and more. During the Social Hour we also got to watch the crowning of Ms. Wheelchair America 2022, Christine Burke. It was a momentous moment for all of us.
On the next day we had the privilege of listening to our keynote speaker, Ms. Wheelchair CA 2012, Mary Zendejas . It was inspiring to listen to her life story, her advocacy for those with disabilities, the challenges with her own disability, and her rise in her career. I hope to someday meet her in person. I feel she and I would have great discussions together. After Mary spoke, we had lunch with Ms. Wheelchair America 2022, Christine Burke. Christine is an amazing person. I enjoyed getting to know her and sharing stories. Hopefully she can guide me on how to bring more disability representation in film from her own experiences advocating for her platform. Once we had lunch we broke into workshops on advocacy and how to build a strong media platform. Former Ms Wheelchair California 2016 Alette provided an amazing background on her life story and her past advocacy involvement. A strong woman with a strong career and life goals. Who can ask for more in a role model?
After the educational workshops it was soon time for the gut clenching moment. The SPEECH! There was a Livestreaming MWCA Event held for all the contestants’ speeches. Each of the contests were called out to give their speech. The other girls were amazing, They all had such great ideas for advocacy for those with disabilities. Olivia’s focus was on the challenges for those driving with a disability and Nichole’s was on disability issues in life. The competition was nerve wracking for me. I gave the my best speech pitch on disability representation in the media and how to advocate more for it. All my friends and family who watched it live loved it. As soon as the words escaped from my lips I felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. It was done. All the prepping and stressing in making everything perfect. Over.
Now…for the big finale…
The moment of the big crowning event. Before the MWCA crowning, there was a fun round of live questions with the judges. Then they announced the People’s Choice Award to Nichole Franken. An amazing honor. Great job Nichole for gaining the most votes and having strong fundraising skills. When the big moment finally came to announce the role, my heart was thumping. I was surprised my microphone wasn’t catching it. I wanted this opportunity so bad. I wore my gorgeous green gown for the formal moment. I could hardly believe it when they called my name. Jacquelyne Yawn, the new Ms Wheelchair California 2022! My brain was on a roll. OMG I WON I WON. I think I broke my mouth at the end of the day from smiling so much. I just couldn’t stop, I was so happy.
This weekend has been an amazing journey for me. It has opened my eyes to a world of possibilities. Additionally, I got to meet many fantastic people and it was an honor meeting all the former queens. I have now joined a new sisterhood within The Ms. Wheelchair California Leadership Institute. I am excited to start my reign and latest chapter in my life. Who is ready to join me and help me exceed my platform goals?