Sitting in a white chair, grasping an iced coffee she responded with a beaming smile, “I always would choose to be deaf. I wouldn’t be Emma without all the challenges and struggles everyday. “ Katie, Emma and I had been sitting in the quant Bird Bakery for nearly thirty minutes meeting for the first time and she felt like a friend I’d known my whole life. I had spent the past four weeks reading about Emma Faye anticipating our meeting but could never have expected how charming Miss San Antonio would be!
She sat there dressed in a white and floral maxi dress from a local Boerne boutique Ella Blu paired with clogs fit for a busy day. Her dress was the perfect transition piece from a coffee date to a photo-shoot. In the Texas heat, she not only looked amazing but stayed cool. I opted for a braided crop top and flowy white skirt from my latest trip to La Cantera. I can’t seem to make it out of my favorite outdoor mall without snagging a bag, or two, or three!
While chatting with Emma, it became clear nothing about her was surface level, through and through she was true beauty; sweeter than sugar. Over the past year, the 21 year-old had carefully created the first ever deaf music festival, Good Vibrations. The festival stemmed from her non-profit Aid the Silent. She had raised over $150k to support the event and had even implemented her detective skills to encourage companies to sponsor her event. With a couple giggles, Emma reminisced about finagling her way on a flight to a Las Vegas hotel where she knew a company’s Vice President was staying for a conference only to knock on his door and smile her way into a sponsorship, “my mom and I are crazy in the best way.”
While she makes her success look like a breeze, it was no easy journey. Growing up as a deaf child, Emma often felt isolated, frustrated and her dreams to create a non-profit for the deaf and to compete in the Miss America circuit overlooked. She commented, “no one knew me (the dream in me), they didn’t know I wanted to play music.” It wasn’t until she turned 14 that she realized it was her choice to choose joy. After attending a Young Life retreat, people said the Emma they used to consider a blank slate now wore joy on her face. While she continued to dream of pursuing music, a deaf non-profit and the Miss American crown, she thought the reality of these were too distant to chase. Even leading up to her high school graduation, Emma planned to attend Beaumont University in Nashville to pursue a degree in Graphic Design following in her mother’s footsteps. But the week leading up to receiving her diploma proved her path would diverge. She felt called to attend UTSA and focus her energy into Aid the Silent.
At this part in her story, Emma interrupted herself inquiring what Katie’s forearm tattoo said. Katie read the handwritten ink “life’s not fair.” Emma nodded with a smile, “so true!” She segways the conversation into her first year in college when she met another deaf person for the first time. She volunteered at a homeless shelter where she had the revelation that she would spend her life serving the deaf. She immediately went home and purchased the domain for Aid the Silent. The non-profit addresses four specific areas in the deaf community: ministry, research, resources and education. Among the many services Aid the Silent provides they offer scholarships for families to obtain hearing aids the government does not provide. The organization also provides classes for people to become bilingual in American Sign Language to encourage communication with deaf loved ones. They also send children to summer camps. The entire non-profit is a rubics cube of bridging the gap between the deaf and hearing worlds.
A few years ago, Emma generated #showyouraids which was a movement to fundraise for young girls. The campaign to show off hearing aids spread across the country and eventually the world! Good Vibrations became an extension of her efforts to integrate the divided deaf and hearing communities. The event embraced the deaf as guests of honor. It welcomed everyone to experience music like never before. The event married the rhythm with visual depictions of sounds such as a light-up dance floor, pulsing LED beach balls and backpacks that vibrated with the beat. Everyone was able to roam freely and not be pushed off into the shadows typical of a hearing environment, isolated to the corner with an interpreter. Emma talked about how dreamy it was to see deaf children experience music for the first time and break out of the silence to dance.
She began to play music at 14 through the vibrations resonating off a piano. She describes the feeling of the notes dancing through her arm as her experiencing music. After learning to play the piano she then added the guitar to her repertoire of skills. When playing the piano she felt the music in her arms, but when she plays the guitar she feels it in her heart. Eventually she began to learn to sing. Instead of feeling the sound in her chest she was able to learn how to control her pitch based on the feeling she had in her head! While she joked about still asking for help to check her sound, she has the voice of an angel. To hear her singing check out “Love Hears: In the Silence.”
Finishing up our coffee we decided to begin our photo-shoot. We had the pleasure of meandering through the recently renovated Witte Museum in childlike wonder. We marveled at the Dinosaur exhibit, interacted with a multitude of technologies and twirled around the temporary whales display. The Witte gave us a chance to step away from the heat but still enjoy the sunny day in its floor to ceiling windows.
Today Emma is working as Miss San Antonio for her second time. She is the first deaf Miss San Antonio as well as the first one to have founded a true non-profit. Because of her job as a public figure, her non-profit has skyrocketed. She aims to advocate for members of the deaf community and act as a role model and lobbyist for others in a world void of deaf leaders. THIS WEEK, Emma will be traveling to Dallas to compete for the Miss Texas crown, taking a step closer to her dreams. The thing that stuck with me after my time with Emma was not just her shear kindness but that love is a language all can hear.
Thank you all for your love and support! And lets cheer our sweet Emma on this week at Miss Texas!