A young woman from Discovery Bay is on a mission to break through convention and prove that nothing can hold her back from reaching her goals.
Madison Bright, 19, has spent a large part of the last few years lying in a hospital bed. At the age of 14, she was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, an inherited, connective tissue disorder, characterized by extreme joint mobility and skin that stretches farther than normal. She now uses a wheelchair.
“It breaks down my collagen, so my entire body is a piece of gum that stretches,” Bright explained. “The glue within my body doesn’t work. I’m home from the hospital right now, and I finally embraced being disabled ... and I wanted to show the world that just because you have accessories doesn’t mean you’re less beautiful and can’t live a life anyone else is.”
A longtime fan of shows like “Toddlers & Tiaras,” Bright always wanted to enter a beauty pageant. One day, while scrolling through Facebook, she saw an ad for the California Cinderella Scholarship Program and Pageant (CCSPP) and thought, “Why not?”
Bright, who graduated from Liberty High School in 2018, filled out an application and has already had an initial interview with CCSPP State Director Jennifer Williams. Williams said she was very inspired by Bright’s confidence and enthusiasm during her initial interview.
“Maddie is the first girl I’ve had sign-up who is handicapped,” Williams said. “I’m excited to have her, because helping every girl feel stronger, find themselves and become a well-rounded individual is what this program is all about.”
Bright has been preparing for the pageant by gathering her art, which she will showcase as her talent.
“I’m an artist, so I have paintings, photographs and sculptures that I’ve made,” she said. “My art goes along with my illness and shows my voice. I can say through my art more what my lifestyle is like than I can through just speaking.”
She is also practicing interview questions at home with her family. This process is bringing Bright one step closer to achieving a dream taken from her five years ago. At age 14, she applied to enter a pageant, but her disease began taking over, so she had to miss the event.
“I was devastated,” Bright recalled.
Now, she is joyfully preparing a pageant wardrobe, and even hopes to use her walker rather than her wheelchair during the pageant’s evening wear portion.
“I’m focusing on my art and working on getting stronger,” said Bright. “I’m enjoying being home and having the freedom to just go to the store. You appreciate the small things, just being able to sit on the couch and watch TV, and being able to go out and celebrate my friends’ birthdays.”
To help her live a more physically functional life, Bright would need to get every joint in her body replaced. She currently has a blood clot preventing her from having any kind of surgery. This pause has granted her the opportunity to pursue her beauty pageant dream.
“I hope to prove to myself that I can do this,” Bright said. “And then I can prove to others that, hey, no matter what you are going through, you can still be who you want to be.”
The Cinderella Scholarship Pageant is a youth development program for girls ages 0-26 years. For more information, visit www.calicinderella.com.