Miss Wells County Teen Shows Beauty Through Adversity

By Corinne Rose - 21Alive
By Eric Dutkiewicz - 21Alive

July 26, 2014 Updated Jul 26, 2014 at 12:29 AM EDT

OSSIAN, Ind. (21Alive) - The new Miss Wells County Teen is hoping her story not only smashes stereotypes, but gives hope for those dealing with adversity.

21Alive first met Brianna Bolinger in May of 2002. Nearly a year earlier, Brianna, then 3, was severely burned in an explosion on her family's farm in Wells County.

Fast forward 14 years, and you find a smiling, baton-twirling junior at Norwell High School crowned Miss Wells county Teen.

"Because I am a burn survivor, I wanted to inspire other little girls," Brianna, now 16, says. "If they have any insecurities, that they can also be in pageants like I was, so they're able to support themselves."

Brianna's recovery has been arduous: 30 surgeries and skin grafts to recover from burns found over 60 percent of her body.

It was baton-twirling that really helped Brianna. She used it to help her flexibility, dexterity in her fingers and to strengthen her skins.

Today, Brianna accounts for four baton-twirling national championships that has led to hopes of being a top twirler in college.

That talent was also played a large part in her winning the Miss Wells County Teen pageant. Brianna nailed the interview portion, businesswear and eveningwear categories.

"To show the world who I am is a better opportunity to get the cause of burn survivors out there," Brianna says. "Yes, I have gotten weird expressions from people. But it's only going to teach them, and help me and others in the long run."

Brianna is set to earn her CNA license later this year. She hopes to become a critical-care nurse in the burn union: to show other burn victims empathy not sympathy.

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