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West Jordan Journal

Special Olympian champions inclusivity wins state miss America queen title

Jul 07, 2023 11:42AM ● By Julie Slama

West Jordan resident Miranda Clegg advocates for those who have disabilities and used that as her passion speech in the Miss Amazing pageant. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

Don’t tell Miranda Clegg she can’t do something. She’ll likely prove she can — with a beautiful smile on her face all the while.

The 24-year-old West Jordan resident is an advocate for inclusivity. 

During the recent Miss Amazing pageant, Clegg was crowned Miss Queen after speaking about her passion.

“I did a self-advocacy speech about how to use your voice and to speak up to change laws,” she said.

Clegg wants to have more accommodations for people who, like her, have a disability.

Her mother, Barbara, said her daughter has been on a waitlist to receive services.

“Right now, the Division of Services for People with Disabilities Division has a huge waitlist because funding is very limited,” she said. “If that is increased, one area that they could make a lot of difference is with the number of programs that are servicing those with disabilities.”

Barbara Clegg said that her daughter wants to work, but since she has holoprosencephaly, with common symptoms of memory loss and not having the concept of time, the services she needs would include a mentor at the job. While they wait to receive services,  Barbara Clegg is her full-time caretaker and driver, and doesn’t receive compensation. It also means she can’t hold down a traditional career. 

“Miranda wants to educate people in the community about people with disabilities, that people don’t have to be afraid of those with disabilities or only identify those in a wheelchair or with Down Syndrome or something obvious. She’s been told by people she’s not disabled because of the way she looks. Miranda has an invisible disability because you can’t see it, but disability comes in all shapes and sizes. There’s just no one look that says, ‘this is what disability looks like,’” her mother said.

Miranda Clegg was diagnosed at age 3 after a store clerk asked, “What’s wrong with your daughter?” her mother recalled. 

The clerk also worked for the DSPD and realizing Clegg’s symptoms, told her mother to bring her daughter to DSPD.

“They took one look at her and said we need you to go to children with special health care needs at Primary Children’s Hospital,” her mother remembered.

That was followed with a CT and MRI. Those were sent to two different medical centers; both concluded the same genetic result.

“The number of live births that happen with severe holoprosencephaly is rare and those who survive past the first year is even more rare. Miranda growing into adulthood is extremely rare,” her mother said, adding that in 2017, Miranda Clegg was included in a study that could only find 15 U.S. adults living with it.

Miranda Clegg advocated for inclusivity while attending Copper Hills High School and ended up being a trailblazer for other students with disabilities.

It began when as a freshman, some cheerleaders encouraged her to try out during club rush.

Barbara Clegg talked to the coach and was told, “I think we could do something with her.” 

However, the coach’s vision was “different than what I pictured,” her mother said. “‘We’ll treat her nice and we’ll give her a shirt and we’ll let her sit on the sideline.’ That was kind of her vision.”

While people at Copper Hills were kind to her, it wasn’t enough.

“Kindness is easy, but actually involving her and having a relationship with her came a lot harder. So, while they were kind, they weren’t inclusive. People don’t realize that those with disabilities are lonely and want the same thing as their peers,” her mother said.

Her principal, Todd Quarnberg, supported her.

“You said she can be a cheerleader, so she’s a cheerleader’” her mother recalled the principal saying.

While she was given a uniform, change came slowly. 

“That first year was hard,” Barbara Clegg said. “They said, ‘she’s not going to travel with us because I have 42 girls and don’t have time to babysit one.’”

That’s when Miranda Clegg said, “give me a chance.”

She cheered at home games. Then, some other girls’ parents supported her, so she went to nearby away games and cheered. At the end of that year, her mother said, “‘If you don’t want to do this anymore, I understand.’ But she was in love with it.”

“I wanted to keep doing it,” Miranda Clegg said.

Her mother said each year her daughter advocated to do more with the cheer squad. It was her senior year, under a new coach, when it was a different story. 

“She told me, ‘I’m going to take her to cheer camp.’ Once the coach accepted her, the other athletes accepted her more,” Barbara Clegg said. “Miranda did everything asked of her, gave more than 100 hours of service to earn her service award, and was named All American. Only 10 percent of American cheerleaders make All American and they don’t usually have special athletes. She went to Houston and represented Utah at a parade. She did everything she could with the same standards as everyone else besides overcoming other stuff.”

Miranda Clegg, who graduated from Copper Hills in 2017 and then from South Valley in 2021, has continued to cheer under that same coach with a Special Olympics team, Galaxy, through the Forever Athletics. 

She has competed in the Miss Amazing program before, often using cheer routines for her passion presentation, but this year she decided to speak in front of an audience of 250.

“I felt educating people about people with disabilities is what I’m passionate about and I don’t want people to think we’re different because we’re like everyone else,” Miranda Clegg said. “I like getting up on stage and talking to the audience. I wasn’t nervous.”

The national Miss Amazing program aims to offer girls and women with disabilities opportunities and pathways for personal growth, dispelling stereotypes about limitations of their capabilities, which often result in them experiencing lower self-esteem. The pageant part of the program begins with Rising Stars at age 5 and continues through the mentor age group of 35-plus.

Miranda Clegg was the First Attendant in the junior division at age 17; then, she was Miss Teen Amazing in 2017; and in 2019, she was crowned Junior Miss Queen.

Now she is fundraising to pay her travel, room and board expenses so she can compete alongside other Miss Amazing Miss Queens at the national contest July 27-30 in Chicago. She also is trying to give about 100 hours of service before then, from handing out awards at a state unified basketball tournament to helping with lunch at Ronald McDonald House.

The national competition will be similar to the state contest that was held March 11, with an introduction, interview and passion presentation.

During those other portions, she was asked about her family and her dogs, Athena and Cosmo, and about her inspiration to be a forensic scientist. She also talked about getting sodas with her dad; her favorite is Dracula’s Kiss that is made with Diet Dr. Pepper, white chocolate and cream.

Winning the Miss Amazing Miss Queen title was special to Miranda Clegg.

“I was very proud of myself; it was a big accomplishment,” she said. “It means I now have a way that I can change the world and advocate for people with disabilities to get what is needed.” λ