Wearing a sparkly pink dress and a smile, Anna Hankins took center stage.
The Mississippi teenager was competing at the state level of the Miss Amazing competition, a pageant for girls and women with disabilities.
Hankins weighs 380 pounds — the result of a rare genetic disorder called Prader-Willi syndrome, the South West News Service reported.
The condition, which only affects about 1 in 10,000 to 30,000 people, can cause problems with physical and mental development, leading to poor muscle tone, intellectual impairment and insatiable appetite, according to the National Institutes of Health.
But at the Miss Amazing pageant several months ago, Hankins was simply introduced as a high school student who loves her pup, the color pink and singing at church.
A video showed her singing at the pageant to Chris Tomlin’s “Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)”:
“I once was lost, but now I’m found / Was blind, but now I see. ‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear / And grace my fears relieved / How precious did that grace appear / The hour I first believed. My chains are gone / I’ve been set free / My God, my Savior has ransomed me / And like a flood His mercy reigns / Unending love, amazing grace.”
Eventually, Hankins was crowned queen of the pageant and posed for photos in a tiara and bright pink sash.
“I love Miss Amazing,” she told SWNS. “My favorite thing is singing and makeup and hair.”
Of Prader-Willi syndrome, she said: “I get hungry a lot. It can be difficult to deal with sometimes.”
Lori Brasfield, director of Mississippi Miss Amazing, called the teen an “inspiration.”
“Prader-Willi syndrome is rare, but Anna takes those difficulties in stride,” Brasfield said in a statement to The Washington Post. “At Mississippi Miss Amazing, she makes friends easily and loves being pampered by the hair and makeup artists. She is not afraid to meet the judges for interviews or take the stage to showcase her talents.
“She embodies what Miss Amazing is about by sharing her talents and abilities with her community, as well as at our state and national events.”
Hankins has struggled with her weight since she was a child.
By age 2, she had been diagnosed with Prader-Willi syndrome.
“When she was little, the first words out of her mouth were ‘I’m hungry’ and the last ones were ‘I’m hungry,’ “ her mother, Jennifer Hankins, told SWNS.
She said her daughter would swipe food from her parents’ dinner plates, steal from the refrigerator or search the garbage.
“We would get up in the morning, and in the middle of the night she had gotten up and made a whole cake,” she said. “We would clean her room and find empty food wrappers and candy wrappers -- anything she could get her hands on. We just didn’t know how to stop it. She got bigger and bigger and bigger.”
Eventually, Jennifer Hankins said, she had to put a lock on the refrigerator.
But, she said, her daughter can’t help it.
“She is hungry all the time,” Hankins told SWNS.
When she takes her daughter out in public, people gawk, she said - and children sometimes say, “Oh, my gosh, she is so fat.”
“Taking part in Miss Amazing definitely helps with her self-esteem, and seeing the other girls that have special needs helps her know she is not the only one,” Hankins said. “She loves getting dressed up, wearing dresses and going up on stage and singing. She loves being the center of attention.
“I cry every time. I get nervous and anxious for her, but then she gets up there and shines and can be herself. It’s a moment where we can forget about all her problems.”
Over the years, Hankins said, her daughter has competed in the pageant — and won the state title — three times. SWNS reported that the teen will go on to the national competition in Chicago later this year.