Anybody can be a princess

EWU junior spreads message of confidence to disabled young girls through pageantry


EWU junior Sami Schubert gives confidence too disabled young girls through her Miss Exceptional Pageant. Miss Exceptional Pageant was founded by Schubert and made its debut in 2015 | Photo courtesy of Samantha Schubert

By Kaitlyn Engen, Reporter

EWU junior Sami Schubert leads a double life. In one, she is an everyday college student.In the other, she is a pageant princess. Through her program, Miss Exceptional Pageant, she seeks to help make other girls princesses too.

The Miss Exceptional Pageant is a nonprofit pageant created to give disabled girls the opportunity to engage in the lifestyle Schubert leads as a pageant princess herself.

Schubert currently holds the title of Miss Eastside. In June, she will be competing against other local title holders for the Miss Washington crown. She points to early inspirations that led her into pageantry and creating the Miss Exceptional Pageant, one of them being her disabled brother.

“I have over 4,000 volunteer hours, and I have raised over $20,000 for local nonprofits, and a lot of that stems from my brother,” Schubert said. “He has autism and a form of muscular dystrophy known as Charcot-Marie-Tooth-Disease.”  

On a family trip to seek out physical therapy for her brother when she was seven years old, Schubert recalled, a receptionist for a children’s therapy unit asked her if she wanted to meet princesses.

“We went to a back room, and it was actually a bunch of Miss Washington title holders,” Schubert said. “They completely inspired me to get into volunteerism and pageantry […] and I’ve been mentored by those girls even today.”

Schubert’s experiences with her brother led her to pursue a degree in Children’s Studies, supplementing her passion for disabled children. She said she would love to work at Mary Bridge Children’s Hospital in Tacoma post-graduation.

Schubert took her passions further. In 2015, she sought out the Exceptional Families Network, a nonprofit organization for children with special needs located in Lakewood. With the organization’s help, she was able to create the Miss Exceptional Pageant.

“I realized that girls who are disabled usually lack confidence, and I wanted to help girls gain that confidence,” Schubert said.

For three consecutive years, the Miss Exceptional Pageant has been a chance for young girls to express themselves in ways their disabilities might have suggested they could not accomplish.

The current Miss Exceptional Junior Queen is one who broke the barrier of self-esteem caused by her disability. A girl with down-syndrome showed up on stage at her third year competing in the Miss Exceptional Pageant with an essay-long introduction for her large audience, when girls usually only share a sentence or two,  according to Schubert.

“She’s done this pageant every single year, and the first year she didn’t even talk in the microphone,” said Schubert. “And this third year, she competed, and she won, and was able to talk in front of a huge audience. That’s a story I particularly love because I saw her grow, and how much confidence she gained from only doing it three years.”

The next Miss Exceptional Pageant will be held on Sept. 22 in Tacoma. Schubert hopes to expand the Miss Exceptional program by eventually bringing it to every state in the country.

Until then, local girls between the ages of five and 21 are being impacted by messages of inner-worth and self-expression that Schubert brings.

“I live by confidence and being myself,” said Schubert. “Miss Exceptional is all about being confident, and with this program, I am able to live what I preach, and tell these girls it’s ok to be disabled, it’s ok to feel different, because you are, but that’s not a bad thing.”