Abbey Curran was the first woman with a disability to compete and win in the Miss Iowa beauty pageant and later to compete in the Miss USA beauty pageant. After being diagnosed with cerebral palsy from birth, Abbey’s determination to exceed a wide range of expectations throughout her life is what has made her a powerful voice for young children with disabilities today.
As a child, Abbey was told that it wasn’t realistic for her to compete in a local beauty pageant because of her disability. As stated in an interview with CerebralPalsy.org, Abbey claims that her frustration turned into determination: “‘It made me mad when someone told me I couldn’t do something. I entered that pageant, and I was in the top 10,’” (Former Miss Iowa and Pageant Founder Helps Little Girls Recognize Their beauty). From that day on, if Abbey was ever told she couldn’t do something, it was her mission to prove them wrong.
When Abbey competed in the Miss Iowa pageant in 2008, she was told she would never win. But she did. She made history as the first woman ever with a disability to compete in the state competition, and the first to win. When Abbey then competed in the Miss USA pageant her confidence levels skyrocketed. Though she did not win, Abbey learned how much of a confidence boost participating in a pageant can be for young girls, especially young girls with disabilities who have been discouraged a multitude of times both at school and at home.
One day between pageants Abbey had a conversation with another girl who also had special needs. This girl told Abbey that she wanted to compete in a pageant, but her parents told her she couldn’t because people would laugh at her. These words devastated Abbey, so in 2004 she created the first “Miss You Can Do It” pageant for young girls with disabilities, catered towards making girls with disabilities feel confident and beautiful just the way they are.
Wheelchairs, walkers, canes, and braces are familiar sights at the pageant, and help to create a sense of empowerment as well as support for contestants who have special needs. In her interview, Abbey exclaims:
“‘They get oodles of confidence; they’re the prettiest little girls. Everyone here likes them. They learn when they come to this pageant that they’re not alone. People aged 5 to 105 love them. They get to go home with something huge…They meet other girls they would not meet otherwise,’” (Former Miss Iowa and Pageant Founder Helps Little Girls Recognize Their beauty).
It is a very powerful thing when young girls see other girls and women who have disabilities so that they know they’re not alone – that thousands of girls around the world have similar struggles to their own. Abbey’s main goal for the Miss You Can Do It pageant is for everyone “to view those with challenges as people who have as much to offer as others,” (Former Miss Iowa and Pageant Founder Helps Little Girls Recognize Their beauty).
Abbey’s confidence and determination is something for young girls – with or without disabilities – to emulate. She is a true leader dedicated to making the world a better place by creating equal opportunities for these girls with a kind, compassionate heart. For more information about the Miss You Can Do It pageant, please check out their website here.