Growing up on a pig farm in rural America, Abbey Curran watched the local beauty queens parade across the stage at the town fair and dreamed of one day joining them.
"They were so beautiful," she recalls.
Years later, in high school, she saw a flyer calling for students to enter the contest and was convinced her chance had finally come. But a teacher told her: "Oh, Abbey. Be realistic. You can't do that."
Why? Because Abbey had cerebral palsy. The condition meant she'd worn leg braces until she was 10 and still walked with a pronounced limp.
Abbey ignored the teacher – "It took someone to doubt me to really motivate me to take the next step," she says – and entered. She lost the pageant – four years running – but wasn't deterred.