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Page 72


Woman Woman Taylor Reneé Fulford

By Bridgette Waldau

In 2012, Taylor Fulford decided to try out the world of pageantry, despite the fact that she suffered from Type 1 diabetes. After being first diagnosed at the age of 14 Fulford really struggled with the disease. Little did she know at the time what the pageant experience would do for her selfesteem and her growth as an individual. Her journey began when she entered the 2012 Miss Okeechobee County Fair Teen USA pageant and won. This title took her to the state level, Miss Florida Teen USA, where she placed in the top 16 out of 75 contestants. She used her platform to bring awareness to juvenile diabetes. Her confidence continued to grow when she entered the 2013 Miss Treasure Coast USA pageant and took home the title. Fulford qualified for the Miss Florida USA pageant and excelled again by placing in the top 16 out of 72 contestants. Fulford’s experience in this complex pageant world has been a positive one for her. “It was not only an honor, but the experience of a lifetime. I have grown so much as an individual because of pageantry, “ she explains. When meeting Fulford, her outward beauty and grace is undeniable, but her real beauty lies beneath. She has worked hard to educate the public about Type 1 diabetes. “That diagnosis I don’t see as an obstacle but more as a badge of courage. One I wear proudly,” states Fulford. Soon after winning her fist title, she started Okeechobee’s first JDRF Walk to Cure and raised over $11,000. She is now in the beginning stages of starting a pageant called “Crowns for Cure” where all proceeds will go to JDRF. Fulford also took her experience

Photo by Ehricka Wallace

and gift to another level. She became a very important mentor to many young girls interested in pageantry. She was a true inspiration to one Okeechobee girl, Destani Whaley. Whaley entered the 2013 Little Miss Okeechobee pageant but had a lack of confidence due to her own disability. Understanding the need to overcome adversity, especially at such a young age, Fulford encouraged Whaley with something that will stay with the young girl for the rest of her life. Fulford’s words that inspired her was “To take her disability and make it an ability and use it to inspire others. Everything happens for a reason that only God knows, but when we trust in him we cannot fail.” Whaley won the title that year and the bond between this young girl and the beauty queen continues to grow to this day. Fulford continues to not only encourage and inspire others with her story, but learns from and is inspired by other people’s stories as well. She thinks that is one of the best rewards of being a queen. Fulford attends college at IRSC and plans to become a Children’s Life Specialist. ¢

Pictured with Fulford is Destani Whaley on the night she won 2013 Little Miss Okeechobee County Fair. On March 9, Whaley passed on her crown to a new Little Miss. Whaley expressed gratitude to her mentor and friend in her farewell message.

Heartland LIVING April May 2014


“Taylor Fulford, thank you for guiding me, you are the greatest mentor, coach and friend ever. You have taught me so much about life and determination. The night that you told me ‘Make your disabilities your Abilities’, it clicked and at that very moment you turned my world around and made me believe in myself. God has blessed you with a heart that shines brightly. Your inner beauty is beyond compare and your beauty on the outside completes you. Helen Keller said, ‘The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen, nor touched...but are felt in the heart’. I love you to the moon and far beyond.” Photo courtesy of Okeechobee County Fair.

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