LOS ANGELES – Victoria Graham is out to show America that beauty is skin deep.
At 22 years old she has broken into the world of beauty pageants while fighting a major health battle with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) that has left a 25-inch scar down her spine.
After undergoing 10 operations on her spine and brain, she and her college roommate decided to do something they had never done before: enter a beauty pageant.
“One day my roommate said we need to do something crazy and do something we had never done. So we decided to either be on 'The Bachelor' or to be in a pageant. And to us those were things we would never see ourselves doing but things you always kind of wish you wanted to do,” she said. “I signed up for a pageant and my parents thought I was crazy, they literally laughed at me when I said I wanted to do a pageant because I wore shorts and a T-shirt and a ponytail and I was the opposite of what you think of a beauty queen.”
But Graham never thought she was going to be strutting the catwalk through her health scare and after countless misdiagnosis and doctor appointments. She was eventually diagnosed with EDS, which effects her body's collagen and causes cranial and spinal instability.
“From the beginning I had this fight for yourself attitude. I knew that I had been dismissed by so many doctors that the only way someone was going to listen to me was if I spoke up for myself.”
But after being crowned the winner of Maryland's Miss Frostburg 2017 pageant, she takes enormous pride in what she has overcome and doesn't shy away from showing off her scar in competitions.
“I take pride in the fact that I have the opportunity to stand onstage and really show my scar and show what I have been through,” she said. “I have been asked a lot of times ‘do you cover your scar?’…I say ‘absolutely not.’ I show it off so other people can look and see it’s possible.”
And in fact, the swimsuit part of the pageant just happens to be her favorite.
“Swimsuits are actually one of my favorite parts and that’s because of my scar. I have a 25-inch scar that runs all the way down my back. You really cannot miss it no matter how many layers of spray tan you put on. I stand on stage with a 25-inch scar in a swimsuit to tell people I have EDS and people need to start talking about it because it actually affects [a lot of] Americans.”