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Lansford teen takes home state pageant title

A pageant queen with autism challenges others’ perception of the disability.

Reilly Bauer, of Lansford, recently took home a title from a statewide pageant for girls with special needs. It will allow her to compete at a national level this summer.

“It feels so amazing, especially after this past year not being able to compete,” Bauer said of her new title, Miss Amazing Pennsylvania Teen Queen 2021.

Bauer has represented Pennsylvania at the National Miss Amazing pageant four times since she started competing in 2016 at age 12.

She is also the reigning Carbon County Fair queen.

The Miss Amazing pageant exists to empower girls with disabilities and change perceptions about what they can do.

“It’s like a regular beauty pageant, but it’s unique in its own way. Kids who would normally be excluded can be included and feel really special and shine, be part of something bigger,” said Reilly’s mom, Colleen Bauer.

Reilly also uses pageants to raise awareness of autism. She tries to educate people about the autism spectrum, and how the disability encompasses individuals who may not appear to have the same diagnosis.

“There is a broad spectrum of people who have it. You can be nonverbal, you can look like you don’t have autism, and you can be in the middle with both characteristics,” she said.

This year, the Pennsylvania Miss Amazing pageant took place online. Contestants were interviewed by judges online, and submitted recordings of their talent. Some contestants read poetry or gave speeches. Bauer submitted a solo song from a recent performance with the chorus at Panther Valley Junior-Senior High School.

The national pageant will be held in person. Reilly and Colleen plan to travel to Nashville so she can compete. After Reilly’s win, they began fundraising efforts. In the past, they’ve held bake sales. This year it’s been harder to get into businesses, so they are doing an online fundraiser.

Bauer participates in the school chorus, and also takes voice lessons, which help her prepare for the pageants.

For the interview portion, she watches a lot of YouTube videos, and makes flash cards to prepare.

Like most pageant contestants, Reilly has to overcome some nerves when she gets on stage. But when her song comes to a close, the nerves are replaced by a feeling of accomplishment.

“Since she’s been involved, it’s let her gain a lot of confidence,” Colleen Bauer said.

Reilly is currently collecting donations at saq2021.funraise.org/fundraiser/reilly-bauer. A trust is also set up at Community Bank in Lansford in Reilly’s name.

Reilly Bauer of Lansford recently took home the crown of Pennsylvania Miss Amazing Teen Queen. She will compete at a national pageant in July. CHRIS REBER/TIMES NEWS