CHICAGO — Chelsea Tayui’s parents encouraged her to become a doctor or a lawyer but this international beauty queen found her purpose by bringing awareness to a disorder that is often misunderstood.
Spreading her message of awareness from the south suburbs of Chicago to the other side of the globe. Chelsea Tayui is one of Chicago’s Very Own.
For the 26-year-old beauty queen, autism awareness has always been at the forefront of her mind.
“It’s not something I did just for the pageant. I was always heavy on it, like pro-autism awareness and pro-inclusivity when it comes to it,” Tayui said,
It is a topic she holds dear. When she was seven, her younger brother William was born 24 weeks premature and was eventually diagnosed with autism.
“I would watch my mother go to the hospital every day just to be there with him,” she said.
Tayui credits available resources and early intervention for William’s success.
“The best thing my parents ever did was early intervention, bringing in speech pathologists, occupational therapists, whatever they needed to do to get William, up and running, and make sure he completes all of his growth milestones.” she said.
Now, the Flossmoor native spends her days working here and abroad to increase autism awareness and education in her role as Miss Universe Ghana.
This isn’t the first time she put autism in the spotlight. In 2017, tayui competed in the Miss Illinois Pageant where she placed as a top 15 semi-finalist. Her platform then was also autism awareness.
“It was a platform where she could shed light on something we had to deal with as a family,” her mother, Bea Tayui, said.
Quarantined in Ghana because of COVID-19 last year. She entered and won the Miss Universe Ghana title and still holds that title today. She says the stigma of autism in Ghana only renewed her efforts to help the children there.
“My job is to come in and say okay, include these kids in these daily activities, don’t ostracize them,” she said.
Because of her dual citizenship she and her mother were able to stay in Ghana during the pandemic. This past May, in an effort to keep kids safe while traveling to school she donated a minivan to a school for teens with autism in Ghana.
“Since they will be viewed as different or strange or cursed, they’re an easy target for harm and for bullying, so I wanted to eliminate that all in one go,” Tayui said.
All of this is part of two advocacy programs she launched this spring — The World Through Their Eyes and Leading Voices for the Voiceless. The latter is a program that includes support from two former presidents of Ghana. John Agyekum Kufuor and John Dramani Mahama both blended lending their high profiles to the cause.
“I needed to partner with people whom I knew I would be seen and heard regardless,” Tayui said.
Tayui said she hopes her new platforms teach compassion, inclusivity and early intervention. but outside of America, there is still quite a bit of work to be done.
“It starts with us, it doesn’t just start with one person, we all have to come together as a collective unit and do something about it,” Tayui said.
Tayui said she plans to spread her message beyond Ghana, working to better the lives of children with autism all over the world.