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Heather Whitestone

Real name: Heather Whitestone McCallum
Birthdate: 1973
Status: Married
Partner: N/A

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Biography

Whitestone was born and raised in Dothan for the first eleven years of her life. She went to Central Institute for the Deaf in 1984 when she was doing poorly in the mainstream environment. At CID, she improved her reading by six grade levels in just three years and eventually graduated in 1987 with a 3.6 GPA. Whitestone moved to Birmingham at age sixteen following her parents' divorce. Whitestone attended the Alabama School of Fine Arts for a year and graduated from Berry High School (now Hoover High School) in 1991.

Whitestone competed in many beauty pageants, winning the Shelby County Junior Miss pageant, as well as winning the Miss Point Mallard competition three years in a row, finally winning the Miss Alabama title in 1994. She was the first deaf woman to win this title.

Whitestone represented Alabama at the Miss America 1995 pageant held in Atlantic City, New Jersey. Despite being profoundly deaf, she performed ballet en pointe to the song "Via Dolorosa" as her talent, winning the preliminary talent competition, as well as the preliminary swimsuit competition. She was the first double preliminary winner from Alabama since 1985. When she was crowned Miss America 1995, she could not hear host Regis Philbin say her name, and it was not until the first runner-up gestured to her that she realized she had won.

Since her win, she completed her studies at Jacksonville State University, and has promoted 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 a book called 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, something that she had never been able to experience before. Whitestone said the primary motivator 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.

Whitestone's mother, Daphne Gray, noted in the book she wrote on her daughter, Today's Heroes: Heather Whitestone, that she is highly criticized in the Deaf community for her choice to speak and read lips instead of signing. (See manualism and oralism.) Although the book claims Whitestone wanted to sign at first, her mom refused to allow it. Whitestone does know sign language now, but she is reported to speak out against it.

She also speaks highly of her experiences in classical dance, something that she had excelled in since she was a child.



 


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