ALCORN COUNTY • Catherine Roseberry is a typical girl.
If you ask her, she might even admit she’s a girly girl. She loves cute clothes, makeup and a bit of bling.
She’s especially pretty in pink, but purple is her favorite color.
She’s affectionately called Cat by family and close friends.
A Daddy’s girl, Catherine adored her father, who died five years ago. She misses him.
She has a penchant for pizza, but also appreciates a good burger and chicken nuggets.
An animal lover, Catherine has seven cats and two dogs but, in full disclosure, horses are her most favorite. Sadly, she said, she doesn’t have one of her own.
She’s quite fond of shopping, delights in dancing and has choreographed a couple just for herself.
She’d joyfully confess to all within earshot she loves a pageant – not as a viewer but as a participant – and she’s got the sash and tiara to prove it.
Her smile is constant and contagious, even when dealing with the difficulties that can come with living life in a wheelchair.
Catherine, who celebrates her 27th birthday today, was born with spina bifida.
Spina bifida, which literally means “cleft spine,” is a disabling birth defect characterized by the incomplete development of the brain, spinal cord, and/or meninges (the protective covering around the brain and spinal cord).
Catherine’s mother, Jill, knew about her daughter’s condition before she was born.
“I knew and I chose to have her,” Jill said. “I’d always heard that God picked special people for special children.”
Though it hasn’t always been easy for either mother or daughter, neither has used Catherine’s spina bifida as an excuse to not live life largely.
“I have just always raised her to be a normal kid on wheels,” Jill said.
“I have spina bifeda,” she said. “Spina bifida does not have me.”
Hoping to find ways to instill self-esteem in her special daughter, Jill began entering Catherine in pageants.
“I thought she would have trouble because of being disabled,” she said, smiling. “But, believe me, she has no problem at all with self-esteem.”
Still, Catherine competed in pageants at different ages through the years.
“She competed in typical pageants – not for special needs – much of her life,” she said.
But several years ago, Jill stopped entering Catherine because she said she felt those pageants were going in a direction she did not wish her daughter to go.
“But she missed being able to compete,” Jill said. “I got online about two years ago and found a pageant in Senatobia for special needs girls. Catherine competed the year before last and we found it to be amazing.”
The entry fee for Mississippi Miss Amazing contestants? Five cans of food.
Mississippi Miss Amazing is a local chapter of Miss Amazing Inc, a 501©(3) non-profit organization with chapters in more than 30 states.
The mission of the organization is to provide opportunities for girls and young women with special needs to build self-advocacy through the skills learned from pageant participation in a supportive environment. The Miss Amazing Organization has donated around $50,000 and 1,000 pounds of food to community organizations across the United States.
Last November, Catherine was named 2019 Mississippi Miss Amazing in her age group, and she couldn’t be more pleased.
In her role, she has been a fierce advocate for others with special needs. In fact, she has a short speech she offers regarding her statement of belief: “We have to take care of disabled children and veterans because children are our future and without veterans, we would not have a future.”
Catherine likes to volunteer at ARC of Northeast Mississippi, LIFE of Mississippi and Our Artworks.
These days, Catherine and her mom are getting ready for the national Miss Amazing Pageant the first week in August.
Catherine might tell you she’s ready, but her mom reminds her daughter there’s still lots to be done before making the trek to the Windy City. Jill makes all Catherine’s pageant clothes and still has a couple to complete. There are outfits for modeling, talent, judges’ interview and closing ceremonies.
Catherine’s pageant talent, when called for, is the cha cha slide, which Catherine adapted to the wheelchair when she was 14.
“She’s adapted several line dances to wheelchair,” said her mama. “She likes to get out and show off.”
Catherine said she’s “kind of excited, but kind of not excited” about her first trip to the national Miss Amazing pageant. She’s not looking forward to the long van ride to Chicago.
There’ll be a pajama party, a formal dinner and dance, time for arts and crafts and, of course, the competition.
But she’ll be ready, as always, with a wish to win and wise words for those with special needs like her – “Try your best to do what you want to do and have fun doing it.”