Thu, Jul 15, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Wheelchair beauty pageant driven by inspiration

By Caroline Hong  /  STAFF REPORTER

The 12 finalists in the Eden Social Welfare Foundation's first beauty pageant for wheelchair-bound women are introduced at a press conference yesterday.

PHOTO: LU CHUN-WEI, TAIPEI TIMES

Challenging the classical definition of beauty, the Eden Social Welfare Foundation yesterday introduced the 12 finalists in its first beauty pageant for wheelchair-bound women.

The finalists of the inaugural Ms. Wheelchair and "Love without Borders" Ambassador Contest 2004 were chosen from among 26 women around the country.

Contestants said that they hoped publicity from the event would inspire and encourage people to walk out of the shadow of their disability.

Contestant Sleeve Yu (余秀芷), author of The Remaining 20 Percent: Reasons to be Strong, said she came to realize the importance of attitude in dealing with disability.

"When I became disabled, I spent the first year and a half at home crying all the time. I was afraid to let people see me, and I isolated myself from friends who tried to call because I didn't want them to pity me," said Yu, whose budding modeling career was ended by her mysterious condition.

"One day, I looked in the mirror and I was shocked. Who was this pitiful person looking back at me? The eyes of the person in the mirror asked for pity; I then began to smile more and, magically, people smiled back," she said.

Other finalists included inspirational figures such as Shih Chu-hua (施祝華), a wheelchair table tennis medalist.

"All of the other finalists are cheerful people with beautiful smiles. I think the judges chose people like that to inspire other disabled people to have more confidence in themselves and be optimistic," said Shih, 39.

The foundation said that the pageant's winner will be asked to represent it during promotional events this year.

The finals for the pageant will be held on Aug. 7 at the foundation's charity dinner as part of its annual "Love without Borders" donation drive.

For more details, call the foundation at (02) 2230-6685. Tickets are NT$4,000 per person, the cost of one wheelchair.

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