February 24, 1973 |
|Alma mater||Jacksonville State University|
|Occupation||Motivational Speaker and author|
|Known for||First deaf Miss America|
|Title||Miss Alabama 1994
Miss America 1995
|Predecessor||Kimberly Clarice Aiken|
Heather Leigh Whitestone McCallum (born February 24, 1973 in Dothan, Alabama) is a former beauty queen who was the first deaf Miss America title holder, having lost most of her hearing at age 18 months.
In fourth grade, Heather learned about the story of a young woman from Alabama who would forever change her life — Helen Keller. Keller became her role model. She was unable to keep up with her classwork and began to fall behind her peers. She asked her family to send her to a special school that would enable her to catch up with other students in her class. While at the Central Institute for the Deaf in St. Louis, Missouri, she learned two grade levels per year. After three years, she caught up with her peers and returned to Alabama to graduate from public middle school with a 3.6 GPA.
She moved to Birmingham at age sixteen, following her parents' divorce. She attended the Alabama School of Fine Arts for a year and graduated from Berry High School (now Hoover High School) in 1991. Her passion was ballet and because of her deafness, she had spent most of her time developing her ballet skills. She then went on to study at Jacksonville State University.
Heather first participated in Shelby County Junior Miss program. While not actually a beauty pageant, the experience gave her the confidence to begin entering pageants. Her first year in the Miss America system, she won the Miss Jacksonville State University title, and went on to be Miss Alabama. She stood next to Miss Virginia (Culen Johnson) in the finals of the Miss America pagent, 1995. When the first runner up was announced, she could not hear the host Regis Philbin but could read his lips. Surprised, she looked to her fellow contestant for confirmation that she had won.
As Miss America, she showcased her S.T.A.R.S. program around the country. S.T.A.R.S. stands for "Success Through Action and Realization of your dreams." It has five points which are: positive attitude, belief in a dream, the willingness to work hard, facing obstacles, and building a strong support team.
She also served as an executive member on the President's Committee on Employment of People Disabilities.
After Miss America
Since her Miss America win, Heather has completed her studies at Jacksonville State University and continued to promote awareness of Deaf issues. She has also spoken out in detail about her close relationship with God, one that she has had ever since she rediscovered church as a teenager. She wrote about her life experiences in her third book, Let God Surprise You: Trust God with Your Dreams.
In 2002, she courted controversy among the Deaf community when she decided to have a cochlear implant operation in order to hear to an extent in her right ear, the hearing of which she had lost at 18 months. It was activated on September 19, 2002. She said the primary motivation for electing the surgery was an incident when she did not hear her son's cries for help. She said that she has not regretted her decision, thanking her family for supporting her.
She is a motivational speaker and lives on Saint Simons Island with her husband John McCallum, whom she met when he served as a Congressional aide to Speaker Newt Gingrich. They have three children, John, James, and William.
Some of her accomplishments include:
Appointed by President Bush and confirmed by the US Senate to the National Council on Disability - Resigned in 2010.
Becoming a board member for the Helen Keller Foundation for Research and Education, from 1995-2002.
She was appointed to the Advisory Council for the National Institute of Health on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, in 2002.
In 2003, she filmed two public service announcements to bring awareness about "Dogs for the Deaf", which is a hearing-dog organization.
She became a spokesperson for the Starkey Hearing Aid Foundation and for Cochlear America's.
She has written three books: Listening with My Heart, Believing in the Promise, and Let God Surprise You. She has also spearheaded the nation's largest multimedia public service campaign to identify early hearing loss, which was created by the Miss America Organization and the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf.
- Listening with My Heart (1997) ISBN 0-385-48675-8
- Believing the Promise (1999) ISBN 0-310-24628-8
- Let God Surprise You (2003) ISBN 0-385-49507-2
- Heavenly Crowns (2004) ISBN 0-310-24627-X
- Kanwar, Tanuja. "Former pageant winners send congratulations to student", Gadsden Times, September 18, 1994. Accessed July 18, 2010.
- Northstar Media (Summer 2007). Journey Out of Silence: The Heather Whitestone Story (Biography). American Public Television.
- Miss America - Through the years.... Miss South Central Scholarship Program, Inc. Accessed June 20, 2010.
- Whitestone, Heather (2005). "Frequently Asked Questions". HeatherWhitestone.com.[dead link]
- Miss America Organization (2008). "1995: Heather Whitestone, Birmingham, Alabama". Miss America History.
- Miss America Organization. "Miss America 1995: Heather Whitestone." Miss America Organization. Miss America Organization, 2012. Web. 19 Oct. 2012.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Heather Whitestone.|
|Awards and achievements|
Kimberly Clarice Aiken
Amie Beth Dickenson