It’s not unusual to hear about controversies stirred up by beauty pageants — Miss Teen USA’s cringe-worthy faux pas, Miss Hawaii’s eyebrow-raising question, and even Steve Harvey’s infamous Miss Universe blunder are just a few examples. But every once in a while, they take a huge step forward, like Miss Teen USA’s decision to eliminate the swimsuit competition and this Miss World Australia contestant who just broke a major pageant boundary.

beauty pageant

Justine Clark is a 26-year-old who has the long blonde hair and sparkling white teeth of the classically gorgeous beauty queen type. In a lovely gown with a floral lace top and smooth, silky skirt, she looked right at home with the other contestants.

What makes her stand out is the fact that Clark is in a wheelchair.

“I don’t really want to go into what happened,” she told The Advertiser while speaking of the reason she uses a wheelchair. “But I want to be a role model and empower young women… for somebody in a wheelchair to be able to compete is a big thing. I really hope it sends a message that no matter what your race, size or disability — whatever makes you different — you are beautiful.”

Miss World Australia claims to “create and empower role models who will serve as ambassadors to charity, enrich the perception of beauty, and enhance a new strength, energy, and spirit for the advancement of women, while positively impacting their communities.” It certainly seems like Justine Clark may have what it takes to do just that.

Would you like to see more diversity in pageants? Let us know @BritandCo!

(h/t Cosmopolitan; photo via LisaIson/Getty)