Puerto Rican Beauty Queen Breaks Barriers for Inclusion

Bella Padilla was crowned as an honorary queen at the Puerto Rican Pageant 2022, the first young woman with disabilities to participate in the event in 55 years, her mother says

NBC Universal, Inc.

Friday marks the start of the Puerto Rican Festival of Massachusetts, and the special guests will include a queen.

Fourteen-year-old Bella Padilla is no ordinary teenager.

"Bella is a miracle," said her mother, Marlene Pedroza. The teenager is navigating serious health challenges. "She has a diagnosis of cortical vision impairment, cerebral palsy and a rare genetic disorder called Xia-Gibb Syndrome."

But that doesn’t mean Bella isn’t enjoying what life and her Puerto Rican culture has to offer.

“Bella was actually crowned at the Puerto Rican Pageant 2022; the honorary queen and she is the first participant with a disability in 55 years,” said her mother.

The Puerto Rican Festival of Massachusetts’ organizers reached out to Marlene this year – the first year for in person events since the start of the pandemic. Marlene had asked to enter Bella in 2019.

"I really thought that after the conversation we had so many medical interventions that hey back burner and the president reached out and said 'Hey, remember two years ago…?'"

The pageant director says she’s so happy Bella could be a part of this tradition.

Bella was born in Boston but represents her grandparents' town in Puerto Rico. Her mom says this image of her daughter with the other young ladies gives her so much pride.

"It is huge, to just break these barriers and just give other young Puerto Rican women and other girls in general that you can do this too. Beauty pageants are not just for beauty it’s for inclusion and breaking barriers," she said.

It gave Bella the opportunity to appear on the mound at Fenway Park before thousands of fans using her electronic communication device to say “Play Ball” …representing her culture and showing everyone what’s possible.

Bella has a big weekend – she’s a part of the Puerto Rican Festival of Massachusetts’ three-day celebration starting Friday and ending Sunday with a parade at Franklin Park.

Telemundo is the official station of the Puerto Rican festival and parade.

Contact Us