TWIN FALLS • Two years ago, Sierra Sandison was devastated when she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes.
“It totally flipped my world upside down,” Sandison said. “Before I started competing in pageants, I wanted to completely ignore diabetes and hope it would go away.”
On Saturday, Sandison, 20, embraced her disease and became a role model for many when she competed in Miss Idaho pageant’s swimsuit competition wearing her insulin pump, a medical device that automatically administers insulin without shots.
Later that evening, Sandison beat out 19 other women and was crowned 2014 Miss Idaho. She will be competing in the Miss America Pageant Sept. 9-14 in Atlantic City, N.J. The competition will air Sept. 14.
It has been 21 years since a woman from the Magic Valley was selected to represent Idaho in the Miss America Pageant. The last to win was RoseAnna Holliday, director of the Miss Magic Valley organization, who won the Miss Idaho title in 1993.
“It’s a huge deal to have Sierra representing the Magic Valley in the Miss America Pageant,” Holliday said. “We’re thrilled.”
Sandison’s platform is Possibilities for Disabilities, a sports camp for children with disabilities. The organization was started by Sandison’s sister, Hailey, and was Hailey’s senior project.
The photo of Sandison wearing her insulin pump has inspired others to show theirs. On the Miss Idaho Organization Facebook page, people are showing their own photos of themselves with pumps, using the hashtag #showmeyourpump.
“Every time I look at my Facebook, I start crying. I’ve been on a roller coaster all week,” Sandison said.
The online campaign has extended beyond those with diabetes. Sandison said one girl sent in a picture of herself wearing hearing aids.
This isn’t the first time Sandison competed in the Miss Idaho competition.
Sandison was crowned Miss Pocatello in 2012 and competed for Miss Idaho last year.
She didn’t do well, she said.
“Last year, I didn’t even make top 11. I just worked really hard,” she said.
This year, Sandison won swimsuit, interview, academic and tied for talent.
Sandison is also the 2013 Miss Magic Valley. She will be handing over her title to the next recipient at 7 p.m. July 25 at Canyon Ridge High School. She will also model in a fashion show at Magic Valley Mall at 1 p.m. Saturday. She will be available for meet and greet.
In September, Sandison will also get a chance to meet one of her role models — Nicole Johnson, Miss America 1999. Johnson called Sandison after she heard about her win. Johnson wasn’t planning to attend the pageant, but will cancel her plans to be there.
Sandison said Johnson wore her insulin pump on stage in 1999. Johnson is why she started doing pageants.
“Even if you have an insulin pump, you are not less beautiful,” she said. “Maybe I can be Nicole Johnson for someone.”