(Pictured above: At center in the red flower dress, Abbey Curran, founder of the Miss You Can Do It non-profit pageant, at the Chicago premiere of HBO’s documentary film, with more than 100 girls and young women with disabilities and special needs in attendance / Photo Credit: Fab Photo Chicago.)

The inspiring Miss You Can Do It pageant recently received the documentary treatment from HBO Documentary Films and will air June 24 at 9 p.m. ET as part of HBO’s summer documentary series. Earlier this week, HBO, Comcast, and Easter Seals – an organization that provides services to help children and adults with disabilities and special needs, and support for their family members – hosted the film’s premiere at VENUE SIX10 in Chicago.

An annual, weekend-long event, Miss You Can Do It is a non-profit pageant especially for girls and women between the ages of 4-25 with special needs and challenges. The pageant was founded in 2004 by Abbey Curran, Miss Iowa USA 2008 and the first woman with a disability to compete at the Miss USA Pageant. Abbey started the Miss You Can Do It pageants to show girls and young women that they could accomplish great things as long as they tried. Families travel from around the country to participate in the event, and no one leaves the pageant empty-handed; each girl takes home a special award.

The film also highlights the perspective of parents and families, who openly describe how the heartbreak of learning that their child was different quickly gave way to loving patience, dedication and a new appreciation for the joys and challenges of raising a child with special needs.

At the premiere event in Chicago, more than 100 girls and young women, both typically-developing and those living with disabilities, were treated to a Hollywood-style movie premiere experience, complete with a "pink" carpet and "paparazzi."

We had the opportunity to speak with Lisa Heller, SVP of HBO Documentary Films, about her experience working on the Miss You Can Do It film.

How did you come to find out about the Miss You Can Do It pageant?
Director/Producer Ron Davis found the pageant and filmed it early on and presented it to HBO. Sheila Nevins and the doc team were surprised to find that there was a big story in this little pageant.

What was your first thought after watching the documentary for the first time?
Like most people who see it, I cried.

What is your favorite moment in the documentary?
Too many favorite moments to pick just one! A few highlights: Teyanna’s incredible sister encouraging her independence; Ali talking up her fondness for convertible Mustangs and Justin Bieber with the pageant judges; Tasha and Kenna’s parents expressing the trials and triumphs of parenting children with disabilities; and, of course, Abbey Curran on the national stage as Miss Iowa, the first woman with a disability ever to compete in the Miss USA pageant -- a seminal moment in the film, Abbey’s life and the part of this story that ultimately affects the lives of all the girls who come to be involved with the Miss You Can Do It pageant.

If there is one thing you hope viewers will learn from watching this, what would that be?
We hope HBO viewers feel, rather than learn, things from our programs. That’s where the staying power is and that’s the gift of a strong documentary. It is impossible to see this film and not feel these girls’ delight in Abbey’s pageant or be touched by the heroism and courage of their parents and families. Our hope is that this film bears witness to that experience so effectively that it’s simply unforgettable.

Miss You Can Do It debuts Monday, June 24, on HBO. See photos below from the Chicago premiere.

Filmmaker Ron Davis and Pageant Founder Abbey Curran pose with girls featured in Miss You Can Do It.

Abbey Curran and Ron Davis

By TW Staff