AP Entertainment Writer
In the opening moments of a new reality show, a pretty blonde pulls up to a gas station in her sporty Mustang. As she fills the tank, she catches the eye of a man across the station and smiles. Soon she drives away, waving to her admirer as she leaves.
Another Kardashian-style series? Not quite. Around her fueling and flirting, we also see the woman assembling a wheelchair, popping herself into it and then disassembling the chair before driving off.
The blonde is 28-year-old Tiphany Adams, one of the stars of “Push Girls,” a Sundance Channel reality series premiering Monday that takes viewers into the lives of four beautiful wheelchair-bound women.
All paralyzed through injury or illness, Adams and her three best friends _ Mia Schaikewitz, 33, Auti Angel, 42, and Angela Rockwood, 36 _ are shown navigating everyday challenges of all sizes, from putting on makeup to starting a family.
It’s an unprecedented look at the lives of disabled women, catheters and all, and either a new high or new low for reality TV.
The Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation, another spinal cord injury advocacy group, is promoting “Push Girls” and joining with Sundance Channel to raise funds for research. Reeve Foundation president and chief executive Peter Wilderotter called the show “a media milestone.”
Angel allows the cameras to eavesdrop on her private conversations with her husband about having a baby, one of the show’s ongoing story lines.
Producer Gay Rosenthal said she was inspired to make “Push Girls” after meeting Rockwood, a model and actress who became a quadriplegic after a 2001 car accident.
And their message is universal: “You watch just their spirit and how nothing stops them and how they live life, and it makes you think, `I can get through my challenge, my obstacle and my adversity,” said Rosenthal, also the executive producer of TLC’s “Little People, Big World,” a reality series about the everyday life of a family of little people.
Rosenthal maintains that the show doesn’t exploit its subjects.
Schaikewitz said her paralysis at age 15 from a ruptured vessel in her spinal cord is “the best thing that ever happened to me, for reasons that I am able to open somebody’s mind by doing an everyday normal activity.
So is having the Sundance Channel and “Push Girls” to share her reality with others.
The 14-episode series will follow the women as they work, swim, ski, date and relate with their families.
Sundance Channel jumped on the chance to work with “Push Girls,” said general manager Sarah Barnett.
For Tiphany Adams, the woman at the gas station, the series tells the world she still has what it takes.
AP Entertainment Writer Sandy Cohen is on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/APSandy .