Barbie Thomas has lived nearly her entire life armless after losing the limbs in a childhood accident, but that hasn’t stopped her from fulfilling her dream of becoming a competitive bodybuilder.
At 2, Thomas climbed on top of a transformer near her family's apartment and grabbed the wires. The electrical surge burned her arms practically to the bone, and both had to be amputated up to the shoulders.
Thomas, now 37, lives in Phoenix with her two sons, ages 13 and 17. Life hasn’t always been easy for her but she's never lost her positive spirit.
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"I was not allowed to be negative and say I can't do something," she told ABCNews.com.
"I was always taught to focus on what I can do, not what I can't do. It probably has a lot to do with my personality — I can't imagine being a negative Nancy all the time."
Thomas opens doors with her feet, and uses them to plug in appliances, carry bags, and put things in her cart at the grocery store. She balances the phone between her ear and what's left of her shoulder, or her "nub," as her children call it.
Most of all, her legs are the stars of her bodybuilding performance. The National Physique Committee, which is the amateur division of the International Federation of Bodybuilders, requires contestants to perform a routine that incorporates dance, cheerleading, or gymnastics.
Thomas' ninja moves, splits, and high kicks earned her the first-ever Inspiration Award last year, and she came in fifth at the North American Championships in August.
"We were thinking, 'How can she do that routine?' but she blew our minds," Miles Nuessle, Arizona chairman of the NPC, told ABCNews.com. "She was absolutely beautiful. She was on the floor jumping up and doing splits. I don't know what half the moves were called. She was rolling all over the place and shaking it — sexy, athletic, fun and emotional. The crowd went nuts. You can't use the word handicapped with her or she may punch you in the face. Barbie is not handicapped."
But bodybuilding isn't just about trying to come in first place, Thomas says.
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"I realize it inspires many people, and not just those with physical challenges," she said. "Follow your dreams and keep pushing and where there is a will, there is a way. We all have our own stuff to deal with and our own limitations and handicaps. Mine are just more visible. There's always someone else out there who has it worse."
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