Madeline Delp Wants to Become the First Woman In a Wheelchair to Compete In Miss USA
"Is Miss USA ready for someone in a wheelchair? I believe so."
Madeline Delp was just 10 years old when a car accident changed her life forever. After being in a coma for several weeks, she woke up to find that she'd been paralyzed from the waist down and would rely on a wheelchair for the rest of her life.
"My self-esteem plummeted...I suffered from depression and anxiety for years, and even though I always tried not to show it, I was really struggling," Delp told Glamour in a recent interview.
But as she grew into a teenager, Delp became determined to no longer be a victim of her circumstances.
"This injury, may have broken my body, my family, my home and at times, my spirit, but I can look back and say that it has forced me to become stronger than I could have ever imagined," Delp shared on Instagram a while back while recalling her accident. "For that, I will forever be grateful."
When she turned 20, Delp pursued her lifelong dream to take part in a beauty pageant. She competed in the Ms. Wheelchair North Carolina pageant and to her absolute surprise, she won. (Related: Miss Teen USA Swaps Swimsuits for Athletic Wear)
"Suddenly I was thrust into an entire year of out-of-my-comfort-zone situations, traveling all over the state and meeting new people," she told Glamour. "I went from being this incredibly shy girl who would never in a million years think she could get up and speak to people to doing it on a weekly basis."
The following year, she was ready to take it to the next level and competed in Miss Wheelchair USA—and won again.
It was then that Delp says she realized her dreams had no limits, she told Glamour. It's what inspired her to help others and create Live Boundless, an organization that provides wheelchairs to people with lack of access or resources across the world. It was through this organization that she began traveling around the country, speaking to large groups of people about why disabilities don't have to hold you back.
It was then that she says she gained the confidence to find out what her own body was capable of, she told the mag. By deciding to step out of her comfort zone, Delp went horseback riding for the first time since her accident. She also tried rock climbing and skydiving for the first time. (Related: The Many Health Benefits of Trying New Things)
It's clear that Delp has also made fitness a huge part of her life and is always finding new ways to build strength. From trying new workouts like aerial yoga...
Delp told Glamour that it was through pushing herself physically, she gained the confidence to pursue pageantry on an even bigger, more inclusive level. Last year, she competed in Miss Ashville North Carolina, her first able-bodied pageant, and won. Later that year, she went on to become one of the first women to compete in Miss North Carolina in a wheelchair.
While she didn't win this time, she decided to compete in the competition again this year. (Related: Mikayla Holmgren Becomes the First Person with Down Syndrome to Compete In Miss Minnesota USA)
The 2019 Miss North Carolina pageant took place this weekend, and this time around, Delp placed in 10th place. She also won Miss Congeniality, which was a huge accomplishment. "I believe that I am the first girl in a wheelchair to EVER advance that far in a state pageant in the entire USA," she wrote on Instagram last night. "I will be honest...my heart is heavy that I wasn’t able to bring home the crown for every single one of you out there who have been cheering me on and also for anyone who has been told by society that they can’t do something."
While disheartened, Delp says she fully intends to try again next year. Not only that, but she also has her eyes set on something bigger: becoming the first woman in a wheelchair to compete in Miss USA.
"I am very proud of how far I have come in order to be the strong woman you saw on stage, despite all that has tried to keep me down," she wrote. "Is Miss USA ready for someone in a wheelchair? I believe so... maybe they won’t get it this year, but I certainly hope that is a barrier broken soon."