“The car accident happened and I was like, ‘There’s no way I’m ever going to get on a stage,'” Miss New Mexico USA Pageant People’s Choice recipient Jasmin Perry said.

Perry is an artist, writer and now pageant contestant from Rio Rancho. She was in a car accident in 2020 that left her handicapped and with the task of relearning how to walk.

In June 2023, she used her cane to walk across the stage twice at NMSU Center of the Arts to accept the People’s Choice and Miss Congeniality awards for the 2023 Miss New Mexico USA Pageant.

“‘Who is Jasmin now?'” Perry had asked herself shortly after the accident.

“Because your life kind of changes, and your mental state kind of changes, and how you view yourself and how you look at yourself,” she said.

Perry had originally planned on participating in the pageant in 2020 before she got into the life-changing car accident that occurred in February, just a month before the coronavirus emerged in New Mexico.

Perry said that she couldn’t get in to see a doctor for a long time, which made her symptoms worse.

She said that the pandemic was isolating for everybody, but it was even harder for her to learn to live in a world that was no longer made for her.

“You go into a store, you’re not thinking of ‘How am I going to walk in? How am I going to get up this step? How am I going to get my groceries?’ It’s this mundane thing that people just forget,” Perry said.

She recalled that the mental toll the accident took on her made it difficult for her to improve physically. She had at one point been embarrassed to leave the house walking with a cane.

“I had to push myself in every single aspect and push myself out of that,” Perry said. “I was finally like, ‘OK, look, what do you want to do? You want to keep being in this space, or do you want to just try to put yourself out there and just see what happens?'”

This year, she decided it was time to put herself back into the world of pageantry. Before her accident, she viewed it as a “ridiculous goal” to reach that she could look back on fondly when she is old.

After her accident, she started to view it as a way to improve her physical and mental health. Pageantry held her accountable for regularly attending physical therapy and staying healthy overall.

“Putting that giant goal ahead of me was mainly just to get me kind of out of this physical and mental crippling state,” Perry said.

Once Perry entered the pageant, she said she hadn’t expected to win any awards. Her goal was to make connections and memories, have fun and spread positivity to the other contestants. Spreading positivity, as it turned out, was enough for her to be selected for People’s Choice and Miss Congeniality.

Perry recalled the moment her name was announced for the awards.

“You’re standing on stage; you’ve got these hot lights on you. You’ve just been doing all these dance routines and walking so you’re kind of just sitting in the moment. And when they’re telling you this, it even took me a moment when they said my name,” she said.

“Now I have all these wonderful women around me that are pouring back into me and lighting my light and seeing me. It was a really special moment for me,” Perry said. “Getting to see that other people could see the light in me, that was the highlight of everything.”

Since completing the pageant, Jasmin Perry has been working on a new project— writing a children’s book. 

Perry is Hispanic and Black and wanted to create a book that is more catered towards Black children. She wrote and illustrated a picture book entitled “My Black is Divine.” It consists of a series of colorful illustrations and words that encourage Black children to embrace their culture.

Cover of "My Black is Divine" (Lauren Lifke)

Cover of “My Black is Divine” (Lauren Lifke)

Excerpt from "My Black is Divine" (Lauren Lifke)

Excerpt from “My Black is Divine” (Lauren Lifke)

“I’ve always really loved art, music. It’s kind of like my breakaway, which was kind of cool because also during this accident, that’s when I was able to really hone in and write my book,” Perry said.

She is in the process of finding a publisher for her book. She hopes to expand recognition of her culture, as she said that she doesn’t see many books catered toward Black kids in bookstores.

“I wanted to kind of do what I did with the pageant in the book and just uplift,” Perry said. She also said that the book is meant to be inclusive for kids of all abilities. “It’s still this beautiful colored book that has bright colors, and it’s engaging.”

She hopes to spread her new philosophy on life that she has adopted since participating in pageantry: Put yourself out there and try, no matter what.

“Even if you think, ‘This is ridiculous; I probably won’t make it,’ put those thoughts in the back of your mind and just do it anyways. You have this one life,” she said.