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Pageant Is Her Crowning Achievement

Seeing 20-year-old Abbey Curran, in her Miss Iowa crown, competing against 50 other beauties in the Miss USA pageant in Las Vegas this week, you'd never know the difficult path that brought her to this point.

Born with cerebral palsy, Curran has had to fight harder than the other contestants every step of the way . In part, that's because every step is a small miracle for someone who was told as a child she would never walk without holding onto something.

She is the first person born with a disability to compete in a Miss USA contest. But it's been her dream since she can remember.

Photos: Pageant Prelims
"I used to dress up - and we had a giant window seat with platforms - I would dress up with boas and wigs and sing, 'Here she comes....' and I would make my whole family watch this show every night, " the beauty queen tells The Early Show correspondent Hattie Kauffman.

Her mom says she always told Curran "she can do whatever she set her mind to. You know you can do it. You can do whatever. You just have to try. Might have to try harder than somebody else, but you can do whatever you want."

It's that attitude that kept her going through her childhood on the Iowa farm to college, where she now juggles a full sophomore course load with piano instruction and flying lessons. That's right, flying lessons.

"It's a blast; it's fun," Curran says of lessons she is taking to earn her pilot's license. "I can't run that well so to be in a plane that just soars through the skies, it's amazing."

What have been some of the challenges facing her in the competition, which has been going on all week in Las Vegas and culminates with a televised ceremony Friday night?

"The stage is beautiful but you have to walk down the stairs, " Curran tells Kauffman. "And you walk down the stairs in a beautiful coat and then you're in your swimsuit, so you have to take your coat off going down the steps in heels and have it off by the end, and then do the runaway.

"And so I'm going, 'steps.. heels..coats.. in my swimsuit? How does this work?' "

But for now, she says she is happy just to be in Last Vegas. "It doesn't seem real. It doesn't seem real at all," she says.

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