Amy Douglas (Photo by Carol Ann Garrett/Perfectly Timed Photography)

Jo Brighton grad is winner of statewide pageant

Paula Neuman

Amy Douglas, a graduate of Jo Brighton Skills Center, is the winner of the Michigan Miss Amazing 2020 pageant.

The competition, which took place in September in Novi, is held each year to empower girls with disabilities to “have confidence in their goals and pride in their abilities.”

Amy, 28, who has Down syndrome, will go on to national competition in Nashville, Tenn., in August. She entered the pageant at the last minute, said her mother, Janet Sides of Brownstown Township.

“We did it for fun,” Janet said. “We’ve been having some Covid downtime, so we thought we’d do something happy. Amy was very excited.”

Being in the spotlight is something Amy is quite used to. She has done some modeling and has appeared in a few TV commercials, including one for Delta Air Lines.

“She has always loved the camera,” her mom said. “If you had a camera, she was posing. She just decided one day she wanted to be a model.”

Amy’s natural ease and personal flair has captured the attention of modeling agents and photographers, and she’s now represented by several agencies.

One local photographer, Carol Ann Garrett of Trenton-based Perfectly Timed Photography, donated her services behind the camera recently at Rags to Riches consignment boutique in Brownstown when Amy met Ms. Michigan 2015, Rachael Adams of Lincoln Park.

The meeting was arranged by shop owner Tina Brossia. It was all about one pageant winner encouraging another. The event was covered by Fox 2 Detroit.

The Miss Amazing pageant judges base their choice of a winner on applicants’ talent acts and on personal interviews. For her talent act, Amy modeled fall fashions.

“She has quite a talent for putting outfits together,” Janet said. “I think she won just by her charm and the way she knows how to work a crowd.”

For the state pageant, Amy donned the same dress she wore to the Jo Brighton prom a few years ago. But for the national pageant, a new dress was needed. So she and her mom went to Rags to Riches. The boutique is a place Janet and Amy visit quite often. They know Tina, and Amy loves to try on beautiful clothes.

“I thought we should put a dress on layaway because Amy has expensive taste,” Janet said with a laugh. “We started looking at ball gowns, and Amy found one she loved — a purple one.”

Amy said her favorite color is purple. Her bedroom is purple. When she tried on the glittery purple gown with its full, poofy skirt, that was it.

“She loved it,” Janet said. “I hadn’t ever seen her just fall in love like that with a ball gown. Amy loves glitz and glam, and she loves dresses. After we got it on her, we had a heck of a time getting her to take it off.”

What is about the dress she loves so much?

“I like twirling (with the dress on),” Amy said. “I like the sparkle.”

So Janet put a down payment on the dress.

“Tina said even if I couldn’t afford it, she’d let us borrow it,” she said. “My thought was that because Amy was so in love with the dress, there was no borrowing.”

Janet posted about it online, and someone who read about the dress paid it off anonymously for Amy. After learning that the dream dress was truly hers, Amy went to her room, fetched her big, white piggy bank, handed it to her mother and  said she wanted to help other girls get a dress, too.

“Amy’s got the biggest heart,” Janet said. “She has literally just given things away because somebody else loved it and it made them happy.”

Tina said: “Amy brought her piggybank in here and asked if she could keep it in the store and ask for donations to help other girls in need of a little extra change to be pretty. That’s how she worded it.”

Amy’s piggy bank is at Rags to Riches, 23549 Telegraph Road, with a flyer she and her mother created asking for donations to help girls short of funds purchase their own dream dresses. The first recipient of the fund will be a girl from Jo Brighton, in accordance with Amy’s wishes. She loves Jo Brighton.

“If people want to donate, they can just call 734-675-1343 and pull up outside,” Tina said. “I can bring the piggy bank out to the car. A few people have already done that.”

Amy, who now attends Paragon Support Systems in Wyandotte, has other charity endeavors, as well.

Last year, Dr. Noel Jackson of Jackson Snider Parker Dentistry in Trenton asked Amy if she’d be an elf at the practice’s annual holiday party.

“Every year, they’ve had a huge Christmas party for kids with presents and Santa and everything,” Janet said.

Clothes-loving Amy actually had an elf costume in her wardrobe, and she put it to good use working as an elf at the charity party.

“She was super excited,” Janet said. “She loves little kids.”

But this year, because of Covid, the party has been canceled. However, Amy still wants to be an elf and help children in some way. So she and her mother have chosen three charities to benefit through an online fundraiser — South Rockwood-based Children with Hair Loss; Farmington Hills-based Jay’s Juniors, a program created by radio station WNIC to grant the wishes of  chronically or terminally ill children; and the neonatal intensive care unit at the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor where Janet works.

Amy spent a lot of time in that hospital as a child. She was born premature with Down syndrome, and has had a number of major surgeries, including an abdominal operation and an open heart surgery. She has survived two cardiac arrests.

“I like to help babies and kids,” Amy said. “I like to help people with disabilities have a voice. I like modeling, acting, singing and dancing. I’ve been dancing since I was a little kid. I love going to concerts.”

One memorable concert for Amy and Janet was a few years ago when Scottish singer-songwriter KT Tunstall was performing at a bar in Detroit. Amy and her mother were seated in the very front.

“Of course, Amy had to wear this coat that was total glitter,” Janet said. “All of a sudden, KT came up to her and high-fived her and asked her name. Amy told her and then she said, ‘Let’s hear it for Amy.’ Everybody in the whole room was chanting ‘Amy, Amy, Amy.’ Her drummer gave Amy the drumsticks at the end of the concert. It was so, so cute. She was dancing right up against the stage. She’s got such life in her, such a passion for people and showing love.”

Amy has a full, active life. Besides modeling, she sells Avon products, and she has a boyfriend and a group of girlfriends she goes out with, her mother said.

“She has never met a stranger,” Janet said. “She knows no prejudice. Amy is showing the world and advocating for others with disabilities that they can achieve amazing goals for themselves in life.”

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