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Seattle teen to be first Miss Washington Teen USA contestant with Down syndrome

Raechel Benson is 17 and has Down syndrome, but she hasn't let that stop her from pursuing her passion for acting, singing and fashion design.

SEATTLE — Raechel Benson said her superpower is the ability to make friends, and love and kindness, too. Her parents said she’s never had a negative thing to say about anyone and is always optimistic.

Raechel is 17 years old and has Down syndrome. But that's not holding her back. She's currently a sophomore at Shorewood High School in Shoreline, and said she's on her way to becoming a fashion designer. Resume highlights include acting, singing, athletics and even Girl Scouts. 

The pandemic hasn’t dampened her spirits. In fact, she's currently preparing for a unique challenge. On March 26, Raechel will compete for North Seattle as the first Miss Washington Teen USA contestant with Down syndrome.   

Pageants NW has been producing the pageant for decades and was very supportive of welcoming Raechel in the competition this year. Maureen Francisco is the co-executive producer of Pageants NW and said Raechel is showing other contestants what true confidence looks like.

The beauty runs deep in Raechel and that’s why her mother, Paula, said she was comfortable with getting her daughter involved in the pageant.

“It’s a beauty pageant but I know it’s really high performing young women who want to be accomplished,” Paula Benson said.

The acceptance and support of her daughter is what made Paula and her husband, Andrew, excited to be involved. Advocating for kids with disabilities is what led Raechel to the likes of gymnastics, basketball, tennis, Girl Scouts, acting and competing in the Special Olympics. 

Paula said the inclusion and support throughout the process have been overwhelming. Raechel has already conducted interviews with the judges on Zoom and has submitted recordings in her evening gown. She even submitted a sample of her singing.  

Raechel said she intends to study fashion design at Shoreline Community College after she graduates high school. She said she thinks the pageant is a great way to combine many of her passions. 

The finals for the Miss Washington USA and Miss Washington Teen USA Pageants are set for March 21. You can root for Raechel and vote for her in the People’s Choice category online at by clicking here

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