Telling Alaska’s Story: Meet Ms. Wheelchair Alaska USA
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Anchorage resident Kristie Lent will represent the state in a national pageant in Ohio this summer, but it’s one some people may not be familiar with. Lent is Ms. Wheelchair Alaska USA, the first contestant the state has ever had.
Lent was born with a birth defect called spina bifida in which the spinal cord fails to develop properly. Lent’s mobility was affected, and by age 13 she was using a wheelchair.
Lent said she grew up watching beauty pageants on television with her mom, but never imagined she could be in one.
“I just never saw myself as a pageant person,” she said. “But once I found out that this is a pageant that is more focused on advocacy and integrity and education, it really made me want to do it. And also, they have never had a contestant from Alaska, and what better way to represent my Alaska pride than take it national?”
According to the Ms. Wheelchair USA website, the organization’s national title holder is selected after a week full of activities, learning sessions, rehearsals and three nights of on-stage competitions.
Contestants need to be at least 18 years old but there is no other age limit or marital status requirement. Lent, who recently turned 44 and is married, is a professional photographer who often volunteers with the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. With her platform “travel without barriers,” she wants to focus particularly on accessibility issues with airlines as well as share the many ways she gets around in Alaska.
Lent said getting to the national competition in Ohio in July is still a long road ahead, as she tries to figure out expenses for things like transportation, lodging and wardrobe. She’s busy fundraising, looking for sponsors and donations. An account on her behalf has been set up by the Dane Foundation, a nonprofit that serves people with disabilities that is associated with the pageant.
Lent said she is thankful to friends, family and members of the mushing community who have helped her so far in her quest to win the national title. A public meet-n-greet with Lent is scheduled from 4-7 p.m. on Feb. 10 at Northern Wings Café, at 750 W. Dimond Blvd.
Though Lent is the first person to represent Alaska in Ms. Wheelchair USA, Alaska resident Tonya Cotton represented the state and placed nationally in a similar program, Ms. Wheelchair America, in 1994.
Editor’s note: This article has been updated with additional information about an Alaska contestant in a similar program, Ms. Wheelchair America.
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