Singing Praises for the Miss You Can Do It Pageant

Jul 12, 2013
Tagged with: Singing Praises for the Miss You Can Do It Pageant


If you don’t get HBO on your television, find a family member or friend who does and watch the HBO documentary Miss You Can Do It. Take a box of tissues with you. Take two.

Miss You Can Do It is a beauty pageant for young girls aged four to 25 who have physical and/or mental disabilities like cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, and Down Syndrome. Though the pageant has been crowning beauties for ten years, the HBO documentary, which premiered June 25, 2013, was an emotional awakening for those (like me) who had no idea the pageant even existed.

The pageant is the brainchild of Abbey Curran, a former Miss Iowa and a Miss USA contestant who was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at age two. She wore leg braces until age eight. In high school, she saw a flyer announcing a beauty pageant, wanted to enter, and the excited teenager told a teacher. The teacher’s response? “Be realistic. You can’t do that.” Oh, really?

Not according to the future beauty queen, who was the first woman with a disability to compete in the Miss USA pageant. Her teacher’s response merely inspired Curran to push harder in life. Wouldn’t you have loved to see the look on that teacher’s face when the Miss Iowa crown went to someone who “can’t do that”?

To inspire other girls like her, empower them, and give them the chance to shine, Curran launched the Miss You Can Do It pageant in 2004. The documentary focuses on the pageant held in the Kewanee, Illinois area, Curran’s home town, where dozens of girls entered.

Several of the courageous cuties arrived in wheelchair accessible vans while others were ambulatory, but every one of these amazing kids was there to flash their smiles and show their stuff in stylish sportswear and gorgeous evening gowns, but it was their spirit and exuberance that needed to impress the judges, who surely had a challenging time picking the winner. There were trophies for the sportswear winner, one for winner of the evening gown competition, a first runner-up and, of course, Miss You Can Do It. (You’ll be happy to know every contestant went home with a trophy!)

The audience was an über-enthusiastic cheering squad made up of the proudest parents you’ve ever seen. It’s hard to decide whose faces expressed the most joy—those of the parents or every contestant who took the stage, including…

Meg and Alina, sisters with cerebral palsy. In the documentary, we learned that Meg’s family adopted Alina from an Eastern European country where children with disabilities have no value. On stage, Alina showed her true worth to a wildly appreciative audience.

As part of the competition, the girls were asked to craft essays, which were presented during the pageant, either by the contestant or a pageant official. Amazing Teyanna, who has severe cerebral palsy, wrote, “The meaning of disabled is not having any power, but I have the power to do anything I am willing to try. That makes me able.”

Watch the documentary on HBO or rent it when it goes to video. You will never be moved by a beauty pageant in the same way.

What are your thoughts on disabled people in beauty pageants?

Author: Susan Hawkins