Mary Anna Parker had never considered participating in a beauty pageant because she said there were too many connotations attached to the competitions in her mind.
That changed, though, after the Redmond resident was approached by a woman at Seattle Fashion Week who asked if she was interested. She originally wasn’t, but she said while talking with the representative from the pageant, she started to change her mind.
“I thought it would be a great opportunity to get the word out further about multiple sclerosis,” she said.
Multiple sclerosis, or MS as many people familiar with it call it, is a disorder where the body’s immune system attacks the central nervous system, including the brain, spinal cord and eyes.
It slowly degrades the ability of people with the disease to move, see and function.
Parker’s mother was diagnosed with MS in 2011.
At first, Parker said she and her sister were scared, and going to events with other MS patients was described as nerve-wracking.
The sisters went to a MS camp for kids and learned about the disease and how to deal with it as family members.
As she’s learned more, Parker said her family decided to fight back and try and raise money and awareness for research.
“It’s not really a disease that many people are very familiar with,” she said.
The trio attended events from bike rides to runs to help raise money for the Multiple Sclerosis Society here and in California with the ultimate goal of finding a cure.
Part of the way she’s helping to raise awareness is by competing in the Miss Washington Teen competition in November representing Redmond.
After she applied, Parker went through a series of interviews and was eventually selected to compete with other teens from across the state for the title.
She said her initial views on the competition have been changing, especially since she’s met other contestants who have all been welcoming and friendly.
She’s also jumping through hoops lining everything up for the competition.
“I didn’t realize there’s all these things I need to have ready and be prepared for,” she said.
It’s important for people to remember, she said, that the competition is more than a beauty pageant and that lots of her fellow competitors are participating for different causes.
For her, though, the message is constant.
“I think it’s important for people to know that MS affects a lot of people very differently,” she said.
The Washington USA Pageant provides cash, prizes, awards and scholarships for the state’s top finalists and for some other contestants, according to its website.
The statewide pageant will be held on Nov. 4 -5 and a location has not yet been announced.