Danielle Wineman Photography
Alexis Wineman’s journey started long before being crowned Miss Montana 2012, and ultimately the "America's Choice" contestant in the 2012 Miss America competition. Prior to the Miss America 2012 competition, Alexis rarely wore high heels and makeup. The competition for her was an opportunity to challenge herself and prove wrong her naysayers who never thought the shy, quiet girl in a hoodie could actually compete on one of the biggest stages in America. That opportunity turned out to be so much more, Alexis was also representing a community, a community of 1 in 88 children in the United States who are diagnosed with autism. Her unique personal story as the first Miss America contestant diagnosed with autism and the third contestant with a disability since the competition’s inception in 1921 made headlines around the world. She was named by Diane Sawyer as the “Person of the Week” on World News Tonight, and was profiled in Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s series "Human Factors: Overcoming Obstacles" on CNN. She also made appearances on Fox and Friends, Good Morning America, 20/20, The Jeff Probst Showand was interviewed online for the Today Show, E!News, People, Time, USA Today, and the Huffington Post. Glamour magazine featured Alexis in its April 2013 issue as the “Most Popular Girl in America”. Alexis was recently recognized as a titleholder who has had a significant impact on pageantry. At the age of 11, Alexis was diagnosed with PDD-NOS (Pervasive Developmental Disorder- Not Otherwise Specified), an autism spectrum disorder. She was in middle school when officially diagnosed but felt different from an early age. As she got older, she struggled with some of the aspects that come with an autism diagnosis, like a speech impediment, communication challenges, sensitivity to sounds and other sensory sensitivities. Part of her struggle was the bullying that resulted because of her differences. Fortunately, her family was and continues to be a source of strength and inspiration for her. Her twin and two other siblings helped Alexis get involved more with school life—she joined cheerleading, drama and cross country. Her confidence in herself began to grow, which helped her improve her speech and cope with other challenges. Alexis still faces some of the same challenges but strongly believes that anyone, with autism or without, should never stop trying to improve themselves. Alexis remains grateful for the Miss America experience. Through it, she found her voice and has become a sought after speaker who is dedicated to building acceptance and awareness about autism and encouraging others to reach and aim high, because anything is possible. Alexis’ hometown is Cut Bank, Montana and she is currently a freshman at Huntingdon College, in Montgomery, AL. Alexis was the lead in a recent school play and enjoys art, drama, video games, comedy and is a WWE fan. Her talent at Miss America was performance of a comedic monologue; she gets great joy in making people laugh. Alexis wants more people to understand that autism doesn’t define her, she defines her autism.