At just 15 years old, Anna Hankins has made national news headlines for her recent win at the Miss Amazing Mississippi pageant.
Why Hankins' win has attracted so much attention Hankins was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder called Prader-Willi Syndrome, which causes insatiable hunger that leads to overeating and weight gain. The disorder is extremely rare and affects about 1 in 15,000 babies each year. Now 380 pounds, Hankins has struggled with overeating for as long as her family can remember. "We would get up in the morning, and in the middle of the night she had gotten up and made a whole cake," Hankins' mother said. "We would clean her room and find empty food wrappers and candy wrappers — anything she could get her hands on."
Hankins' mother recalls having to lock the cabinets and refrigerator so that Hankins would not get into them. She also recounts stories of going out to eat at restaurants and having people stare at her family. Hankins now needs help to dress herself and oxygen to help her breath due to her weight. In an effort to help Hankins become healthy, doctors have restricted her daily caloric intake to 900 calories, but due to Hankins' disorder, she is unable to lose weight. Hankins' love of pageantry Hankins has found a self-esteem boost in competing with the Miss Amazing pageant system.
"I love Miss Amazing," Hankins said. "My favorite thing is singing and makeup and hair." "Taking part in Miss Amazing definitely helps with her self-esteem, and seeing the other girls that have special needs helps her know she is not the only one," Hankins' mother said. "She loves getting dressed up, wearing dresses and going up on stage and singing. She loves being the center of attention." Her most recent title with the Miss Amazing Mississippi pageant is actually the third title she has held with the system. Hankins started competing when she was in fourth grade and has competed in and won three state pageants since then.
As much as she loves the Miss Amazing pageant, the staff loves her, too.
"The biggest misconception people have regarding people with disabilities is that they cannot lead full, engaging lives," said Miss Amazing Mississippi Director Lori Brasfield-Sanders. "Anna is an amazing ambassador; she is very popular and she loves participating. She spreads joy wherever she goes."