Heather Whitestone – The first ever deaf person to be crowned Miss America 1995

24 Jan 2024 | Priya Bhardwaj

Heather Leigh Whitestone McCallum was crowned Miss America in 1995 held at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey on 17th September 1994 as she made history be becoming the first ever deaf person to be crowned Miss America.

A former beauty queen, Heather lost most of her hearing at 18 months due to a serious ear infection. She was born in Dothan, Alabama, to Bill Whitestone and Daphne Gray. When she was in fourth grade, Heather heard about Helen Keller which forever changed her life. She attended the Alabama School of Fine Arts for a year and graduated from Berry High School (Now Hoover High School) in 1991.


Heather Whitestone – The first ever deaf person to be crowned Miss America 1995


Being passionate for ballet, Heather spent most of her time honing her skills and then went on to study at Jacksonville State University. Miss America was her first pageant and she conquered it with her sincerity and dedication! At the finale stage, Heather 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, Heather advocated for S.T.A.R.S, which stands for ‘Success Through Action and Realization of your dreams’. The program comprised of positive attitude, belief in a dream, the willingness to work hard, facing obstacles, and building a strong support team.

An author, Heather has written four books- Listening with My Heart, Believing in the Promise, Let God Surprise You, and Heavenly Crowns. She also served as an executive member on the President's Committee on Employment of People Disabilities. After her Miss America reign as well, Heather has continued to work for awareness of deaf issues. A true beauty queen indeed.