Her mother calls her “Miss Sass.” She also answers to “Miss Priss.” Never one to shy away from the spotlight, Brandi Mutters is now vying for a new title – “Miss Amazing.”
Brandi, who has Down syndrome, will fly to Chicago this weekend to represent North Carolina in the national Miss Amazing pageant for girls and women with disabilities. It will be Brandi’s first time in the Windy City – and first time on an airplane. The 31-year-old Rutherfordton resident has already proven herself a pageant natural, winning the state Miss Amazing title in her age category in April.
In the meantime, she’s perfected her beauty queen hand wave, a collection of runway poses and how to blow kisses. Her attitude dovetails with the pageant’s mission of providing opportunities for girls and women with disabilities to build their confidence and self-esteem.
It’s a touching message for Brandi’s mother, Phyllis Mutters.
“They can do anything they want to,” she said. “All they’ve got to do is set their mind to it and do it. Every one of them are winners.”
Brandi’s earliest days were rough for her mother. Age 19 and single when Brandi was born, Phyllis had never heard of Down syndrome until the doctor broke the news. She credits her own parents with getting her through the rough patches and offering emotional support. Today, she serves on the board of directors for the Western North Carolina Down Syndrome Alliance.
Brandi, who completed R-S Central High School, works four days a week at Polk Vocational Services in Columbus. She receives an array of healthcare services and supports through the N.C. Innovations program, managed locally by Vaya Health. The program allows Brandi to work in a group setting, brings professional caregivers into her home and gives her parents occasional respite, said Vaya Care Coordinator Mark Bridges.
It’s also increased her independence. Brandi is outgoing, full of life, always on the go and eager to try new things, he said. “Everybody loves her. She has a great sense of humor, and she just makes you happy when you see her.”
The national Miss Amazing pageant includes a talent show, gala, dance party, one-on-one interviews, self-advocacy workshops, Zumba, hair and makeup sessions and a family movie night. Brandi plans to dance in the talent show – her specialty is the Cupid Shuffle – and wear a pink evening gown donated by Joy’s Bridal in Forest City.
Brandi’s personality is a perfect fit for the pageant, said Laura Hall, a professional caregiver who has worked with Brandi for two years.
“She has a fan club everywhere we go,” she said. “… Her laugh is just infectious. People notice it right away, because she’s just so happy. She has a great spirit about her, and I think people sense that.”