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First Woman in a Wheelchair to Compete at Miss USA

Madeline Elizabeth Delp, First Woman in a Wheelchair to Compete at Miss USA Beauty Pageant 

In 2004, Madeline Elizabeth Delp was in a near-fatal car accident at the age of 10 years old. The lap belt pressed into her spine causing bruising and paralysis which she learned about after waking up from a coma. 



Delp says, “It makes me think, wow, I really survived something I shouldn’t have. I’m here, and I have a second chance at life, and I don’t want to waste it.”  

The 25-year-old recently made history when she became one of the top 10 finalists of the Miss North Carolina USA pageant. Delp also earned the title of Miss Congeniality during the pageant. 


It has been a long journey for Delp to reach this point of confidence in her life. Soon after her accident she felt isolated and had not met another person in a wheelchair for four years. She also found it rare to see a wheelchair user on television or in movies.

One day someone reached out to her and advised her to apply for Ms. Wheelchair North Carolina. She had never heard of the pageant before but took the chance and joined. During this experience, she got to meet other young women who were wheelchair users competing for the same title. In 2017, Delp had the honor of traveling around the United States as the winner and Ambassador of Ms. Wheelchair USA.  

The experience of traveling around the country and speaking to different organizations was growth by fire which gave her the confidence to enter the Miss North Carolina USA pageant. 


The Miss North Carolina USA pageant was the first time she or any other wheelchair user competed against non-wheelchair users in a beauty pageant. Delp had to let go of her insecurities of being around girls that had legs for days and just focus on her goal of competing in the pageant. 

Madeline had to become a whole other version of herself that was passionate and strong as she tested the boundaries of pageantry and wheelchairs. 

Delp understands the importance of her top 10 finish and plans to continue being a role model for girls and women in wheelchairs by planning to push forward to achieve her goal to win Miss USA. 

Madeline said, “I want to show people how you can go out and say to hell with the circumstances. I am going to go out and be the best me that I can be and I think that is the real motivation.” 


When Delp isn’t competing in pageants she runs a nonprofit called Live Boundless and travels around the world as an ambassador delivering wheelchairs to people in need.