Sharia Denise Stripling was born and raised in Fort Valley, Georgia. At age four, she suddenly and unexpectedly lost hearing with no cause of illness. As she grew older, she developed a passion for dance and pageantry after reading a book in middle school by Heather Whitestone, the first deaf ballerina and Miss America 1995. Stripling trained in dance and cheered in high school. In 2007, she competed in her first pageant, the Miss Deaf Georgia pageant. Although she did not win the competition, she enjoyed the experience and got to know the other contestants. After graduating from high school in 2008, Stripling continued her education at Valdosta State University and became the first deaf graduate with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance and Theater in 2014. During her matriculation at Valdosta State University, Stripling became the first deaf woman to win the title of Alpha Phi Alpha: Mu Omicron Miss Black and Gold 2013 and held the title Miss Deaf Georgia 2013-2015.
Since graduating from college, Stripling has worked as a dance instructor, continues to serve her community, perform, and compete in competitions such as the Ms. Black Georgia International Ambassador competition. In June 2021, she met Terryann Nash and was asked to be a part of Nash Inspired. Opportunities like this inspired Stripling to implement her platform “Breaking Barriers” to help deaf youth. She is currently working at Apexx, an after- school program, as a dance instructor and American Sign Language coach. Stripling is engaged to the love of her life, Jorel Steven James. She is a National Black Deaf Advocate and looking forward to working with the Georgia Council on Developmental Disabilities to use her experience to help make an impact in Georgia.
Elana Meyers Taylor is a four-time World Champion, eight- time World Championship medalist, four-time Winter Olympian, and five-time Olympic medalist (2010, 2014, 2018, 2022), and 2015 and 2022 World Cup Champion in bobsled. She is the most decorated African American Winter Olympian and women’s bobsledder in history.
Taylor attended George Washington University on a softball scholarship and went on to play professionally for the Mid-Michigan Ice. In the summer of 2007, she made the trip to Lake Placid, N.Y., home of the U.S. National Bobsled Team, and she never left. In April 2014, she became Elana Meyers Taylor, marrying fellow bobsled athlete Nic Taylor, and in 2020, Elana and Nic welcomed their beautiful baby boy, Nico, into the world!
Elana served a six-year term as an athlete director on the USA Bobsled and Skeleton Board of Directors and is currently a mentor for Classroom Champions. Recently, George Washington University honored her with an honorary doctorate degree. Elana has served as the president of the Women’s Sports Foundation, a member of the Athlete Advisory Panel, and has traveled the country sharing her passion for sports and equality for girls. She has recently focused her efforts on disability inclusion as her son Nico was born with Down Syndrome and a hearing impairment.