Nicole Kelly is the newly crowned Miss Iowa, based on her stunning beauty and ability to overcome life's obstacles, such as having only one arm.
After a grueling three-day competition, the 23-year-old Kelly earned the title, despite being born without her left forearm. She is headed to the Miss America pageant on Sept. 15 in Atlantic City, where she'll speak about the importance of overcoming disabilities.
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"It was shocking and overwhelming — just like that your life changes
," she told CBS-4 News.
Kelly studied theater at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and graduated in May 2012. Her pageant biography states that she hopes to work on Broadway.
"As I grew up I learned to counterbalance the initial stares I received from people with an outgoing personality that would not give into 'no,'" she wrote on the Iowa pageant site. "This means that I tried everything. From baseball, to dance, to diving — there is nothing I would not try. I found my passion within a world where I was giving people permission to stare: the stage."
Though she's never afraid of new challenges, Kelly never thought she'd compete in a beauty pageant.
"If you would've told me a year ago that 'pageant queen' was in my future, I would have laughed," she wrote, adding that she's thrilled to be able to publicly discuss overcoming disabilities. "Giving voice to a platform is a great honor and I am excited to continue my adventure of speaking out and touching lives."
Earlier this year, Alexis Wineman, of Montana, become the first autistic contestant to ever participate in the Miss America pageant in January. Also, Theresa Uchytil, born without a left hand, won the 2000 Miss Iowa Pageant and competed in the Miss America Pageant.
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