Kirkwood Teen to Compete for Title of Miss Missouri
Stephanie Patton is using the beauty pageant stage to educate people about diabetes, a disease she has managed since the age of 5.
Stephanie Patton had to grow up fast. At age 5 the Kirkwood resident was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, formerly known as juvenile diabetes. Now 18, Patton hopes to raise awareness about the disease as she eyes the title of Miss Missouri.
The lifelong Kirkwood resident and senior at St. Joseph's Academy will compete for the Miss Missouri title in June after recently winning Miss Chesterfield Valley.
"Each constant is supposed to have a platform that she wants to raise awareness about. Mine is of course raising diabetes awareness and finding a cure in my lifetime," Patton said.
She follows in the shoes of Nicole Johnson who held the Miss America title in 1999. Johnson has diabetes, and Patton remembers being inspired as a child.
"I wanted to wear that crown," Patton said. "I remember thinking, 'If she can do it, I can do it.'"
Patton describes being diagnosed with diabetes as a traumatic event. Her mother, Cindy Patton, would agree with that description.
Before Patton's fifth birthday, Cindy noticed that her daughter was loosing weight and had trouble retaining water. The family's pediatrician told Cindy to bring her in after hearing about her symptoms. On her fifth birthday, the doctor sent her to Children's Hospital in St. Louis where she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.
"It was scary," Cindy said. "I remember Stephanie had a tear in her eye because she couldn't do anything on her birthday."
But, fortunately for the Pattons, Stephanie was able to take control of her illness. She quickly learned how to give herself insulin shots and adopted a strict regimen of monitoring her insulin levels and eating snacks at certain times during the day.
"The one thing to really remember is you need to really take care of yourself and get in habits that stay with you the rest of your life," Patton said.
Patton's love of singing drew her to the beauty pageant scene at when she was 11. She had been performing with Arch City Theater Troupe, a group that raises money for diabetes research. She saw pageants as another outlet to perform.
Pageants have helped Patton gain confidence as contestants must think on their feet.
"I can handle any situation on the spot," Patton said. "It gave me a venue to become a really good public speaker with the on-stage questions," she said.
Pageants also have opened a world of service opportunities for Patton. For instance, after winning Miss Chesterfield Valley, Patton made an appearance at a St. Louis toy drive.
"If I didn't win, I probably would not have had that opportunity," she said.
After competing for Miss Missouri in June, Patton will start her college career in the fall at Mizzou where she plans to major in communications. She also hopes to attend a Disney College where students spend a summer performing in Disney parks. She sees performing for Disney as a way to continue her love of music and theater.
But for now, Patton is looking forward to continuing educating people about diabetes and working to raise money for research. She hopes that Miss Missouri will be an even bigger venue to spread her message to young people.
"Whenever judges ask me questions, I try to bring it back to the platform," Patton said. "Having diabetes means you just have to take an extra step to get to places. In the end, you can do everything that anyone else can do."