Miss Delaware Kayla Martell’s mission. Plus, meet the face behind Facemate, get a read on Dionne Warwick’s co-writer, and picture Kevin Fleming’s wild kingdom.
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Kayla Martell competes for the title of Miss America. Her mission? To win for the millions of other Americans who have alopecia areata.
In the days before the immediacy of the Internet, most of the people who watched Miss Alabama Heather Leigh Whitestone win the 1995 Miss America Pageant did not know that at the age of 18 months, she had lost her hearing. What America saw that evening was an angel dancing ballet on the stage. Only later did she become a role model and spokeswoman for those who cannot hear.
When Miss Delaware Kayla Martell walks down the runway at the 2011 Miss America Pageant this month, millions will have already heard her story. She has been on the “CBS Morning Show,” ABC’s “20/20,” “ET Insider” and in national newspapers, She’s been the topic of discussion on “The View” and, at last count, there were more than 30 clips about Martell on YouTube.
Martell is one of 4.7 million Americans who have alopecia areata, a non-life-threatening autoimmune disorder that causes the body to attack its own hair follicles, thus slowing or halting hair growth.
The 22-year-old beauty from Milford has been bald since she was 10, but it has not stopped her from living an active life, one that includes winning several competitions in Delaware and appearing in the most prestigious beauty pageant in the nation.
Will she carry an agenda with her to the Miss America stage? Martell prefers to call it a mission, delivered by a conduit. Just as her idol, Whitestone, has championed the deaf, Martell dedicates countless hours speaking on behalf of the National Alopecia Areata Foundation.
“I believe I was supposed to lose my hair,” Martell says. “It has made me special, and so many doors have opened because of it. My crown is my microphone, and when I compete, I compete for the 5 million other people who have alopecia areata.”
The 2011 Miss America Pageant will be televised live on ABC from Las Vegas on January 15. —Richard L. Gaw
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