At the Miss You Can Do It Pageant, no one sashays in heels to impress judges with how she fills out a bikini. Rather, the contest, celebrating its 10th anniversary in July, is for girls with disabilities.
Founded by Miss Iowa USA 2008, Abbey Curran, who was born with cerebral palsy, the pageant is profiled in the poignant documentary "Miss You Can Do It," airing Monday, June 24, on HBO.
Growing up in Kewanee, Ill., population 12,916, Curran first competed in the Henry County Beauty Fair. Within four years, while a student at St. Ambrose University in Iowa, she was crowned Miss Iowa.
Among those who motivated her was her family hairdresser, who always told Curran, "You can do it."
Curran was determined to start a pageant because a high-school friend with severe cerebral palsy wanted to enter a pageant, but her parents told her everyone would make fun of her.
In the pageant, which draws girls from Canada, the Midwest and the South, some are in wheelchairs, some use walkers, and others are on crutches. Every girl who competes receives a trophy.
Tierney, 5, has spinal muscular atrophy and chases butterflies in her wheelchair. She's adorable, and her mother explains she has a 40 percent chance of living to be 7.
Tasha, 14, has cerebral palsy and is difficult to understand. She wrote an exquisite essay about disabilities.
Curran, who is studying to become a nurse, runs the pageant on donations.
She hopes viewers "see how amazing these little girls are," Curran tells Zap2it. "A lot of parents call me and say 'so-and-so doesn't want to go to school because kids are making fun of her.' People laugh at me at the mall every day -- duh, I know I walk different. Why don't you open the door?"
"The little girls don't wish they had a walker," she says. "They wish they were like the rest of society. Why doesn't society just see the rest of their amazing qualities?"
Photo/Video credit: HBO