Nicole Kelly, 23, may have been born without her left forearm, but that didn't stop her from her being crowned Miss Iowa on June 8 after a three-day competition in Davenport.
Kelly will now advance to compete for the Miss America title on Sept. 15 in Atlantic City, N. J., where she will be speaking about the importance of overcoming disabilities.
"A year ago, I certainly didn't see 'pageant titleholder' in my future," Kelly writes on her "Meet Miss Iowa" biography page. "Perhaps I didn't originally envision this path, but I now know that being Miss Iowa is the perfect fit for me, and I feel so blessed to be surrounded by people who have encouraged me every step of the way. Giving a voice to my platform, Overcoming Disabilities, is a tremendous honor, and I am thrilled to continue my adventure by speaking out and touching lives as Miss Iowa 2013."
The blond beauty, who lives in Keokuk, is no stranger to the stage. Kelly graduated from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2012 with a degree in directing and theater management. In September 2012, she had an internship on Broadway with the Manhattan Theatre Club.
Kelly says theater was not only an outlet to help her express herself, but it eventually became her chosen career path.
"As I grew older, I learned to offset the initial stares I received … with an outgoing personality that would not give in to 'No,' she writes. "This meant that I tried everything! From baseball, to dance to diving, there was nothing I would not try. I found my passion within a world where I was giving people permission to stare … the stage."
She is the 72nd woman to hold the title of Miss Iowa.