• Pageant competitor with autism hopes to live dreams, win Miss Florida title

    By: Natalie Dreier, Cox Media Group National Content Desk

    Updated:
    TAMPA, Fla. -

    A Florida woman is making history in the Sunshine State as she becomes the first pageant contestant who has autism. 

    Rachel Barcellona never thought she’d get this far in life because of autism.

    “I was basically promised that I would never graduate any school really or have any friends. Pretty much everything bad was going to happen to me because I have autism,” Barcellona told WFLA.

    But it didn’t stop her from competing in the pageant world when she was young.

    She was 5 years old when she first took to the pageant runway. She led the pageant life until fourth grade.

    >> Read more trending news 

    But it was in middle school when she found the stage again.

    “I had depression and anxiety in middle school so then I resumed when I was 13 and that is when I really got into it because it helped me make friends and build my confidence,” Barcellona told WFLA.

    Barcellona, who is a junior at the University of South Florida, will be competing in the Miss Florida competition later this month, WFLA reported.

    Her talent -- singing. And she’s used to performing in front of crowds. She already performed at a Tampa Bay Lightning game, singing the national anthem.

    >> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news 

    Barcellona also has a message for those who may doubt her when it comes to taking the stage.

    “I want people to know that autism does not hold me back. It’s actually an opportunity to achieve my dreams,” she told WFTS.

     

    Next Up: