Miss Deaf America Pageant Contestants in 1982
Miss Deaf America Pageant at the 1982 NAD Conference in St. Louis, Missouri
Chanel Gleicher of Maryland wins the Miss Deaf America title in 2012.

History of Miss. Deaf America

The Miss Deaf America Ambassadorship Program (MDAAP), originally named as Miss Deaf America Program (MDAP), became a reality thanks to two individuals: Douglas J. Burke and Douglas Bahl. In 1966, the National Cultural Program was established, to find hidden talents among deaf people in the visual arts. Based on the phenomenal growth of the state contests within the Cultural Program, Dr. Burke felt there was still something missing. There was one aspect of the arts that had yet to be explored, the world of drama. Dr. Burke created a vision, the need to “recognize deaf actresses at an early age” thus, with the NAD’s blessings, the Miss Deaf America Talent Pageant, was created with support of the National Cultural Program. The program evolved under Bahl’s leadership to become the Miss Deaf America Program. 

The purpose of the pageant was to recognize excellence in the Deaf community; the winner of the NAD Miss Deaf America title became a role model for deaf and hard of hearing women all over the nation. 

From that time on, the NAD MDAP was held every two years during the NAD Conference. Deaf and hard of hearing youth women across the United States came together to represent their home states and demonstrate talents, leadership, fellowship, character in their quest for the NAD Miss Deaf America title. Throughout the history of the pageant, the contestants have learned about and celebrated the uniqueness of the Deaf community, Deaf culture, and American Sign Language. 

The first NAD Miss Deaf America Pageant was held in Miami Beach, Florida during the 1972 NAD Convention had five participants. Ann Billington won the first title of Miss Deaf America. 

Since 1972, the pageant has changed to reflect the times. In 1976, the word ‘talent’ was removed and it was dubbed the NAD Miss Deaf America Pageant, similar to the structure of the Miss America Pageant. Before reaching the national-level competition, participants competed at the local and state level, thus providing a larger number of women the opportunity to test their public-speaking skills, stage presence, leadership and poise, as well as the ability to think on their feet. Contestants were judged across a broad spectrum of categories including community service, academics, perspectives, on current events, knowledge of Deaf culture, and more. 

Continuing the evolution, 2008 brought about a name and program focus change. State Pageant Directors voted to make it the Miss Deaf America Ambassadorship Program (MDAAP) to reflect the significant role the contest winners took on. 

The contest winner earned the title of Miss Deaf America Ambassador and was awarded the MDAAP educational scholarship. As the NAD Miss Deaf America Ambassador, the winner traveled across America, promoting the ideals of the NAD, worked for the rights of deaf and hard of hearing people and encouraged deaf youth to unite for the betterment of the Deaf community. The NAD Miss Deaf America Ambassador continued to serve as a role model to young deaf women, encouraging them to develop their potential to the fullest. 

MDAAP was open to deaf and hard of hearing women from all fifty states, between the ages of 18 and 30. The selection of the NAD Miss Deaf America was based on five categories: private interview, platform presentation, artistic expression, presence and poise, and on-stage interview. 

In 2012, MDAAP celebrated its 40th anniversary event as the final competition. Chanel Gleicher won the last title as the Miss. Deaf America Ambassador 2012 – 2014.  The MDAAP discontinued its competition as a pageant for young women. The new program, Youth Ambassador Program, opened its doors in 2014. 

See photos of all past contestants here.

1972Ann Billington, Miss GallaudetMiami Beach, FL 
5 Contestants
1974Mary Alice Pearce, Miss Deaf Mississippi (relinquished crown)
Pam Young, Miss Gallaudet 
Seattle, WA 
12 Contestants 
1976Susan Davidoff, Miss Deaf Maryland Houston, TX 
17 Contestants
1978Jackie Roth, Miss Deaf Maryland  (relinquished crown) 
Debra Krausa, Miss Deaf Pennsylvania
Rochester, NY 
23 Contestants
1980Mary Beth Barber, Miss Deaf New YorkCincinnati, OH 
31 Contestants 
1982Barbara Tubba, Miss Deaf New York St. Louis, MO 
29 Contestants 
1984Margo Cienik, Miss Deaf CaliforniaBaltimore, MD 
35 Contestants
1986Patricia Brennan, Miss Deaf MaineSalt Lake City, UT
37 Contestants
1988Brandi Sculthorpe, Miss Deaf IllinoisCharleston, SC 
34 Contestants
1990Nancylynn Ward, Miss Deaf CaliforniaIndianapolis, IN 
35 Contestants
1992Stephanie Long, Miss Deaf CaliforniaDenver, CO 
35 Contestants
1994Maureen Yates, Miss Deaf Maryland (relinquished crown)
Jennifer Yost, Miss Deaf Virginia
Knoxville, TN 
39 Contestants
1996Meghan Rainone, Miss Deaf New JerseyPortland, OR 
32 Contestants
1998Amy Wong, Miss Deaf CaliforniaSan Antonio, TX 
36 Contestants
2000Lauren Treuel, Miss Deaf IllinoisNorfolk, VA 
25 Contestants
2002Tyese Wright, Miss Deaf MarylandWashington, DC
27 Contestants
2004Erin Casler, Miss Deaf South DakotaKansas City, MO
27 Contestants
2006Chelsea Tobin, Miss Deaf South DakotaPalm Springs, CA
27 Contestants
2008Michelle Lapides, Miss Deaf MarylandNew Orleans, LA 
22 Contestants
2010Rachel Mazique, Miss Deaf IllinoisPhiladelphia, PA
11 Contestants
2012Chanel Gleicher, Miss Deaf MarylandLouisville, KY
16 Contestants