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New San Diego-based pageant seeks 'Miss California Extraordinaire'

There is a new pageant coming to San Diego County this summer.

The Miss California Extraordinaire competition is open to young girls and women up to 21 years old. Some of the contestants are even pre-school age.

The contenders describe themselves as "differently abled."

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The founder is a former beauty queen who carried the title of Ms. U.S. 2022. Bree Goelze is also a mom, wife and speech pathology assistant who works with neurodiverse children.

“If you have a disability, come be a part of this awesome family. It’s not just an organization. It’s not just a chance to get up on stage and look beautiful. It’s a family," Goelze said.

Bree Goelze (right) is the 2022 Miss US and founder of the new Miss California Extraordinaire pageant. The young contestants are differently-abled, Poway, Calif., March 18, 2023. <br/>
Behzad Nassery
Bree Goelze (right) is the 2022 Miss US and founder of the new Miss California Extraordinaire pageant. The young contestants are differently-abled, Poway, Calif., March 18, 2023.

She started developing plans for the special pageant two years ago, at the beginning of her title reign. It is her way of giving back to the community and shattering stereotypes.

"Society sees a wheelchair; society sees a handicap, a disability," Goelze continued, "and this pageant is going to allow our society to see what’s under all of this.”

Remilia Joy Massella, 4, is one of the contestants. Her mother, Kirsten Massella, entered her daughter living with cerebral palsy as a way to show her self-expression in the pageant.

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“Her body works differently than us. She doesn’t have words yet. She uses icons to talk and just lights up every room she walks into," Massella said.

Remi was born with low oxygen in the brain causing injury at birth.

Her family also includes her dad, Aaron, and two brothers Malachi and Emerick. There is a live-in nanny and grandmother who help as caregivers. They all support her participation.

“Remi loves to dance and so we are thinking about doing a silks dance. So she can use her arms and show her ability to move and groove to the music," her mother said.

Contestants will have the opportunity to have their hair and makeup done by local community professionals.

During the pageant, judges will provide positive feedback, such as "great smile" or "beautiful dress," on scoresheets so the girls can read them after the competition.

The pageant will start with the talent portion followed by a formalwear category.

Amber Heuschkel (left) with her daughter Kirra, 16, (center) and Bree Goelze (right), founder of the new Miss California Extraordinaire Pagent, San Diego, Calif., March 15, 2023.
M.G. Perez
Amber Heuschkel (left) with her daughter Kirra, 16, (center) and Bree Goelze (right), founder of the new Miss California Extraordinaire Pagent, San Diego, Calif., March 15, 2023.

Kirra Heuschkel, 16, is an actress and a blossoming comedian. She is also living with a traumatic brain injury she suffered when she was hit by a car crossing the street with her mother as a very young child.

"You need a good sense of humor, and you have to not be afraid to step out of your comfort zone," she said.

Her dad and younger sister are also part of the family support system nurtured by her mother, Amber Heuschkel, who is her biggest cheerleader.

“I just help her through the hard parts and celebrate through the good," Heuschkel said.

The pageant still has openings for a few more contestants and sponsors.

“I can’t imagine that life would be as rich without the blessings and the lessons that these kids are teaching us," Massella said.

As a former special education teacher, I look forward to connecting with you and reporting on stories that often go underreported in education. #WeAreBetterTogether
What stories are we missing when it comes to education in San Diego County?

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