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August 5, 2004

BP resident represents Minnesota at Miss Deaf America

From: Brooklyn Park Sun Post, MN - Aug 5, 2004

By Kelly Vilson
Sun Newspapers Intern
(Created 8/5/2004 3:34:02 PM)

Elee Vang, a 19 year-old sophomore at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, is studying to become an audiologist.

After she graduates, Vang, a Brooklyn Park resident, will also be able to add a two-year reign as Miss Deaf Minnesota to her resume.

Vang won the title of Miss Deaf Minnesota in June 2003. Last month, she competed for the title of Miss Deaf America at the National Association of the Deaf Convention in Kansas City, Mo.

After being diagnosed with a hearing impairment when she was 3, Vangs family moved to Brooklyn Park, where she learned both Hmong and American Sign Language.

She learned about the Miss Deaf Minnesota pageant while attending Coon Rapids High School.

I knew part of the pageant criteria was based on school performance, so I worked to keep my grades up, Vang said.

Unlike the Miss America pageant, where judges score contestants based upon appearance, contestants in both the state and national Miss Deaf pageants are judged on personality, talent, evening gown, presentation and a private interview.

During both pageants, Vang performed a Hmong culture dance complete with a traditional costume. Other contestants performed single-act plays, signed songs or used artwork to showcase their talents.

Even though Vang didnt come home as Miss Deaf America, she will have the title and responsibilities of Miss Deaf Minnesota until next June. At that time, she will hand over the crown and become chaperone to the next Miss Deaf Minnesota.

Ms. Vang is a bright young woman with a lot of potential. The Minnesota Association of Deaf Citizens is extremely proud of her accomplishments, said Mike Cashman, MADC president.

According to the National Association of the Deaf Web site, part of Vangs role as Miss Deaf Minnesota is being a goodwill ambassador and spokeswoman for the hearing impaired community.

As a spokeswoman, Vang presents her talent at Minnesota schools, speaking about deafness and recruiting more girls for the pageant.

I want to spread the word about the Miss Deaf Minnesota pageant and the National Association of the Deaf, because its been going on for 20 or more years, but it doesnt have many participants, Vang said.

Vangs said her title as Miss Deaf Minnesota creates an opportunity to share her vision with both the hearing and hearing impaired communities in Minnesota.

After graduating from college, Vang said her first goal would be to help citizens in the Hmong community who are hearing impaired.

In the Hmong community, parents arent very accepting of disabled children. I want to teach them to be proud of their children and encourage them to change their treatment of the deaf, Vang said.

According to the Minnesota Department of Health Web site, about 200 children a year are diagnosed with deafness or hearing impairment.

Remember to take the dis out of disability because deaf people are as capable as hearing ones, Vang said.

Elee Vang is available to speak at schools and events around Minnesota. For information, contact her chaperone at

© 2004 Sun Newspapers