Woman with Autism Is First to Compete in Miss Florida Pageant

KATHERINE RODRIGUEZ

A Florida woman is breaking barriers as she will become the first beauty pageant contestant in the state of Florida with autism.

“I was basically promised that I would never graduate any school really or have any friends. Pretty much everything bad was going to happen to me because I have autism,” said Rachel Barcellona, who told WFLA that she would be a Miss Florida pageant contestant in June.

“I love being onstage, and I get the chance to demonstrate my talent for opera singing in the competition, which is my favorite part,” said Barcellona, who has a mild form of the developmental disorder.

But beauty pageants are nothing new for Barcellona, who says she has competed in them since she was five years old. She stayed on the sidelines in middle school due to lingering anxiety and depression but then jumped back into pageantry in her teenage years.

“I was basically promised that I would never graduate any school really or have any friends. Pretty much everything bad was going to happen to me because I have autism,” Barcellona said.

“I resumed when I was thirteen and that is when I really got into it because it helped me make friends and build my confidence,” she added.

She told Fox 35 Orlando that pageantry for her helped her improve her social skills, and she most recently showed off her talents by singing the national anthem at a Tampa Bay Lightning game.

When she’s not on the stage, she told WTSP she plans to work on a novel.

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