January 6, 2015
Written by: Therese
Lauren Compere is competing for a national beauty title in July, and like
every beauty queen, she's done a lot to get there.
But unlike every beauty queen, Compere has been in a wheelchair all her
Compere, a student at Mississippi College, ended up in the Miss Wheelchair
Mississippi pageant almost on a whim when her friend Rebecca Sentell asked if
she wanted to compete.
Meanwhile, Compere had the perfect platform. She had just been discussing
the possibility of a ministry for people with disabilities with her pastor at
In the end, Compere won, and Sentell came in third. Compere said Sentell
deserved all the credit for both of their good showings.
"She did a great job, her platform speech was great, and she looked
beautiful," Compere said of her friend.
Miss Wheelchair America provides an opportunity for high-achieving women
who happen to be wheelchair users to educate and advocate for more than 54
million Americans living with disabilities. Judges consider achievement levels,
communication skills and presentation as they evaluate candidates who could be
articulate spokeswomen for the disabled.
It marks a big milestone in an already remarkable life. Compere has never
actually known what condition it is that has rendered her quadriplegic. As a
young child, doctors diagnosed her as having cerebral palsy, "to put
something on paper really." Still, she said, as she grew older, the doctors
were never really sure that was the correct diagnosis.
"It has always been a big question mark there, kind of a mystery, but
strangely enough, it's never really bothered me," Compere said.
"Growing up, it was never like, 'I have to figure out what this is.' It
was kind of, if I do or if I don't, that's fine."
Part of what gave her the attitude to continue was being raised never to
see herself as truly disabled.
"My parents raised me that they didn't treat me like I had a
disability. I credit the Lord in them for raising me in a way that never said,
'I can't,'" she said.
There are hurdles, though. It can be a challenge to need help with every
aspect of her life, the sunny-dispositioned 21-year-old said.
"Having to ask for everything I need or want, that can become tiring
and frustrating, and having to understand and have patience. Caregiving is a
hard, hard job, and I don't always give them enough credit. They are my hands
and feet and they make my world go around," Compere said. "I have a
team of people that take care of me, and there's a schedule, they're
One of Compere's heroes is quadriplegic motivational speaker and minister
Joni Earickson Tada, who was paralyzed in a swimming accident at age 17 and has
built a worldwide ministry, authoring more than 50 books and learning to paint
by holding a brush in her teeth.
At one point, Compere got to hear Tada speak about the struggles in life,
and "Jesus in the struggles."
"She decided that the splash overs of heaven are the really good
times, things being right and not being wrong, in the midst of your splash over
of hell," Compere said. "It's Jesus in the bad that is the splash
over of heaven. That's what I want people to hear. They have nothing to lose by
giving God a chance and a whole lot to gain."
That faith has carried Compere through her life.
"The truth is that a lot of life is too much to carry, and it's heavy
and it's hard," she said, referring to Matthew 11:28, which says,
"Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you
"He wants us to bring those burdens to him to help us," Compere
said. "This all carries the message: Never say, 'I can't.' That's my motto
that I used for the pageant, and it's been my motto for life."
If you have dreams, don't put them off, she said.
"The sky is the limit. Life is short. As long as it's not illegal or
harming to yourself, go for it," Compere said. "And if it's in the
Lord's will, it will happen."