Miss America 1995
Heather Whitestone Bio
On September 17, 1994, Alabama's Heather Whitestone was selected as Miss America 1995. During her year of service as Miss America, Heather focused her efforts and activities on motivating our nation's citizens to achieve their dreams through dedication, commitment and hard work. As she delivered her message, "Anything is Possible," throughout her term, Heather sought to inspire individuals to achieve their goals through the S.T.A.R.S. program (a five-point approach for personal empowerment). As Miss America 1995, Heather traveled an average of 20,000 miles each month and spoke in a different city every other day. She has spoken to business corporations, non-profit organizations, churches, and government, including the FBI and CIA.
Heather Whitestone was the first woman with a disability to be crowned Miss America in the Pageant's 75 year history. Heather lost her hearing at the age of eighteen months when she was rushed to the hospital with a dangerously high fever, the cause of which was later diagnosed as the Haemophilus influenza virus. According to the doctors, she was only hours from death when they administered two powerful antibiotics that reduced her fever and saved her life. With the doctors assurances, Heather's relieved family took her home believing that their once energetic toddler would be back to normal within a few weeks. After a few months, it became painfully obvious that there was a problem when Heather's mother accidentally dropped a pile of pans on the kitchen floor and Heather, who was playing nearby, did not even flinch. At the Children's Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama, Heather tested as "profoundly deaf" with no hearing in either ear. Her condition was concluded to be the result of the virus, the antibiotics or a combination of both.
Heather believes that the biggest handicap in the world is negative thinking and that people handicap themselves by concentrating only on the negative instead of the positive. Heather was inspired by her family to work hard and never quit trying. Without an interpreter, she attended a public school until she was 12 years old and then enrolled in the Central Institute for the Deaf in St. Louis, Missouri. In 1991, Heather graduated from public high school in Birmingham, Alabama with a 3.6 grade point average. She continued to pursue her education with the $37,000 Miss America Scholarship she was awarded.
In Heather's first book entitled Listening With My Heart (Doubleday, 1997) she shared her life-changing wisdom with others, demonstrating that with strength and faith, anything is possible. Heather's second book, Believing The Promise, was released in the summer of 1999. Let God Surprise You, introduces readers to men and women whose extraordinary stories demonstrate how God can turn around any situation. Her most recent book, Heavenly Crownsdiscusses striving for a godly life in the midst of daily struggles. Her life story has been featured in numerous books magazines and television features including the Oprah Winfrey Show, Good Morning America, The Jay Leno Show and Parade Magazine to name just a few. One of her favorite interviews was an interview with Barbara Walters that was filmed in the China Room in the basement White House.
John K. Niparko, M.D., surgically implanted Heather with a cochlear implant at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. On September 19, 2002, when the device was turned on for the first time, Heather embarked on yet another journey, entering the world of sound.
Heather has been one of the foremost advocates in the United States for those with disabilities. In recognition of her influence she has been selected by two Presidents' to serve her nation. While serving as Miss America, Heather was appointed by President Clinton to the President's Committee on the Employment of People with Disabilities. During the administration of George W. Bush the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tommy Thompson, selected Heather to serve on board of the National Center on Deafness and Other Communicative Disorders. Heather also had the honor of being appointed by President Bush and confirmed by the United States Senate to serve on the board of the National Council on Disability.
Heather and John reside on Saint Simons Island, Georgia with their four boys John, James, Wilson and Liam.