NEW YORK – At only 19 years old, Amy Purdy lost her legs due to complications from meningitis but that did not stop her from becoming a Paralympic snowboarder, a “Dancing with the Stars” contestant, a best-selling author, and now, a judge at the Miss America pageant in Atlantic City on September 13th.
FOX411: You’re judging Miss America this year -- what qualities are you looking for in the next winner?
Amy Purdy: I’m really interested in what they do as far as giving back and the amount of work they have to do and the amount of philanthropy. I’m very interested in these women and what their backgrounds are and what they are passionate about. Also, their talents, that’s something they work towards their entire lives.
FOX411: Do you think pageants like Miss America are becoming passe or are they evolving to fit the woman of today?
Purdy: I think they’re keeping up pretty good. When you can really learn what these women do and that it doesn’t have to do with just beauty, it takes it away from being just a beauty pageant and more of "look what these women have done, look what they’ve accomplished," and they’re incredible role models.
FOX411: Is it time we get rid of the swimsuit portion of the competition?
Purdy: I liked watching the bathing suit part of it and what they wear and how beautiful they are. I think it has to do with how they take care of themselves and that they are healthy, but personally I like to see a healthy woman; somebody who works out who has muscle. I personally don’t want to see somebody who is really thin, overly thin. But I’m thin myself, sometimes that’s just natural as well, so I just want to see healthy, strong women.
FOX411: In your young adulthood you lost your limbs. What was the grieving process like?
Purdy: It was challenging. It was never easy for me. My life changed suddenly and I lost my health. I lost the body that I knew. I lost the life that I knew and I really had to rethink my future and think about my core values and the things that I love, and my passion, and that’s really what helped me move forward. Also, for me just being grateful for what I had in my life versus on focusing on what I was losing, that really helped as well.
FOX411: Not only did you thrive but you became a model. Many women feel insecure regardless of the body they have. What advice do you give to women on how to deal with that?
Purdy: When you are truly you and share who you are with the world and be confident in who you are, it doesn’t matter what size you are. It doesn’t matter what your different body parts look like. For me I just began, eventually, to embrace what I had. This is what I have to deal with and not just deal with but this is what I have to share, and how can I do that the best way. For me I wore pants a lot the first couple years and long skirts, I didn’t want to look different and then I realized this is who I am. I started to embrace it and share it and educate other people that’s when I think my life started to really take off even more, so I really encourage other women to be who they are and to share the things that make them unique, that’s why we’re all here.