FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Pageant winner was never a title Savanah Overturf thought she would claim, especially when she faced bullying and name-calling growing up. Now her struggles and the way she tells those tough stories are fueling her passion for advocacy and what ultimately helped her win the title National Miss Amazing.
Miss Amazing is a national organization which aims to build self-esteem for girls and women with disabilities through educational programs, leadership development and through its annual pageant.
Overturf is a 28-year-old Colorado State University student. CSU’s SOURCE reports she is pursuing a career in public speaking and reads slam poetry at a Fort Collins coffee shop once a week.
“I go to poetry slams, which are kind of competitions. I also go to open mics which are really fun. And I’ll go and read my poetry because I personally feel like I have to read it,” said Overturf.
Colorado woman wins National Miss Amazing
Poetry and language is a way to express herself now, but she wasn’t always able to do so. Overturf told Rocky Mountain PBS she was born at a normal weight but couldn’t sustain food and ended up being very small for her first few years of life. As she got older, doctors noticed she wasn’t speaking.
“I just didn’t have the words ready. I didn’t know what I wanted. By the time I was about four [years old], I knew what I wanted, I just couldn’t say it,” explained Overturf.
She has autism, epilepsy, schizophrenia, Tourette syndrome and an intellectual or developmental disability (IDD). Overturf said she was nonverbal until she was four years old.
“It took me a long time to really have that vocabulary,” said Overturf. “But once I did, as you can tell, I love using my language. I love seeing how language can really change the world.”
Those beliefs are what got her started with poetry and spoken word. She was featured in a TED Talk last year titled “Autism Through My Eyes." There, and at the National Miss Amazing competition, she performed a poem she wrote about the “R-word”. It is a word Overturf describes as a derogatory way to describe someone with IDD.
“I grew up with a lot of bullying, I was put down. I was told I was not good enough. There were many words and many things thrown at me that really changed the way I felt like I could be,” explained Overturf.
Joining the Miss Amazing pageant wasn't something on her radar until a friend told her about it. At first, Overturf admits she was wary of the idea.
“And I went, ‘Oh, a pageant. Well, I’m not a beauty queen so I don’t know about that.' And then I went, ‘You know what, it could be a good way to make friends. I’m going to try it, I’m going to be brave,’” said Overturf.
With the support of her mom who Overturf describes as a “fighter” and who taught her to be a fighter, she entered the competition. Through it all, she was able to meet people from all around the country and get out of her comfort zone. And ultimately won the crown among 270 competitors.
“I ended up winning,” said Overturf with a laugh in her voice, “which was definitely an experience I will never forget and also an experience I didn’t expect.”
Now as this year’s Miss Amazing she has an even bigger platform and opportunity to spread a message that is close to her heart.
“I think one of the messages I really want to move and push forward is to know that first off if you have IDD or autism you are worth it,” Overturf said. “You are amazing. You be the best you can be because you really do matter.”