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May 25, 2003


From: Tyler Morning Telegraph, TX - May 25, 2003

By: SARAH HEISKELL, Staff Writer

Most pageant contestants have to answer a round of questions during the interview portion of their competition, but unlike most beauty queens, Luisa Allison will answer her questions with her hands.

She plans to represent Tyler and East Texas in the Miss Deaf Texas Pageant, set June 7 at the Woman's Building in Tyler.

Along with 12 other young women from all over the state, Miss Deaf Tyler will compete in categories such as interview, talent and eveningwear.

Miss Allison was selected to represent Tyler not only because of her good looks, but also because she was the only one interested in competing.

"It's very exciting," she said through her interpreter Julie Barefield. "It's my first time to compete."

For her talent portion of the competition she will perform a Mexican dance she has been working hard to perfect. She also has been raising money to pay for the expensive pageant dresses and overnight accommodations.

"I picked out two dresses," Miss Allison said. "One is from the Bridal Shop and I have another dress that was loaned to me, but I still need some more."

Pageant contestants are required to have one dress for the interview process and another for the eveningwear presentation.

"We still need to raise some money for the pageant in case something happens," she said. "We need to get some more money to pay my teachers and then maybe save some for the next competition."

Pageant Liaison Kathy Walters said Miss Deaf Texas gives the girls a chance to represent their hometowns, their talents, their accomplishments and their intelligence.

"I used to be in the pageant myself years ago," she said. "I remember how much fun it was to meet young ladies like myself. And they usually become friends after the pageant because it takes a lot of work on their part. They usually go away with wonderful memories and experiences."

With high hopes, Miss Allison is already planning to compete in the national competition.


Miss Allison is the only deaf person in her family. And with no one at home to teach her sign language, she had to wait until she went to school to learn.

"I wasn't born deaf, but I became deaf when I was 2. They were calling my name, and I didn't hear anything so they took me to the doctor and they found out I was deaf, but they don't know how."

With no explanation or reason for her inability to hear, Miss Allison's only option was to adjust. She can now partially hear with her right ear but hears nothing with her left. She can, however, feel vibrations in both ears.

"My family didn't know sign language, and they really didn't like it," she said, again through her interpreter. "They really wanted me to learn to use my voice and talk."

Those who are used to being around Miss Allison can understand her verbal speech without any difficulty, but to newcomers, her speech can often sound choppy.

"I have some friends who have tried to learn how to sign, and they can finger spell some words," she said. "But my parents don't sign at all, so I read their lips a lot. Sometimes it's difficult to understand, especially men's voices."


Communication is often the biggest obstacle for the deaf and hard-of-hearing to overcome.

"It's frustrating when you go for a job interview and they don't want to interview you when they find out you're deaf," said Daphne Smith, Robert E. Lee deaf education teacher. "You have a hard time finding a job because of that."

Ms. Smith knows firsthand how difficult it can be for her students to function in the community - because she also is deaf.

Anytime Miss Allison goes to class or sees a doctor, she makes sure she brings an interpreter with her to bridge the communication gap.

"Some people feel really nervous around me because they don't know what to say or how to behave," she said. "I'm more than happy to teach them sign language at any time."

With encouragement from other deaf students at school, Miss Allison has found the courage to participate in several school-related activities. She plays on her high school's varsity soccer team and is an active member of the deaf club. She also plays on an outdoor soccer league called the Jaguars.

"My outdoor team and I have pretty good communication when I'm playing the game. They let me know where they want me to play, but sometimes they just point. I communicate a little bit better at school because I've been with them longer."

Miss Allison usually gravitates toward activities designed for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.

"I'm more comfortable with my friends if they're deaf," she said. "I'd rather be around more deaf people."

Many of the school's activities such as the prom are not exactly deaf-friendly, so many deaf students prefer to sit out of those kinds of events.

"If the school had activities for deaf students where the communication was better, I think it would be more fun," she said.


"Mainstream" is the term used to describe Miss Allison's schoolwork. She attends regular classes with non-deaf students every day. And in every class she is provided with an interpreter who signs what the teacher is saying.

"She does very well," Ms. Smith said. "In her classes she's willing to do anything the teacher asks her to do and when she gets frustrated she's always willing to sit down and work it out."

After graduating high school, Miss Allison plans to go to college. She wants to become a nurse so she can help deaf people make better decisions and understand what's going on around them.

She attends Green Acres Baptist Church and Friendly Baptist Church in Tyler.

To prepare for the upcoming pageant, Miss Allison has been asking her teachers and members of her church for donations to help her with pageant expenses.

"A lot of people in Tyler have made donations to allow me to be in the pageant," she said. "I just want to be the representative for Tyler so that Tyler can be better appreciated."

Donations for Miss Allison's pageant fund can be made out to TMAD-MDT Fund and mailed to P.O. Box 130923, Tyler, 75713.

Sarah Heiskell writes features. She can be reached at 903.596.6268. e-mail:

©Tyler Morning Telegraph 2003