Nicole Kelly had quite the weekend. Not only did she win Miss Iowa on Saturday, Jun. 8, after a tough three-day competition, but in doing so, she also became the first pageant winner in history missing a limb: Kelly was born without her left forearm.
The 23-year-old will now go on to compete at the Miss America Pageant Sept. 15 in Atlantic City, NJ. In her bio on the Miss Iowa pageant's website, the University of Nebraska at Lincoln graduate wrote about her disability.
"I was born without my left forearm. (Although, when people ask me what happened to my arm, I like to ask, 'Well, what do you think happened?' My favorite explanation to date has been that it was bitten off by a shark…a perfect explanation for someone from Iowa.) As I grew older, I learned to offset the initial stares I received from people with an outgoing personality that would not give in to 'No.' This meant that I tried everything! From baseball, to dance to diving, there was nothing I would not try," Kelly shared.
"I found my passion within a world where I was giving people permission to stare…the stage," she continued. A theater buff with hopes to one day become a Broadway Stage Manager, Kelly studied theater in college and even recently completed a stint on Broadway in the Tony-nominated play, The Assembled Parties.
Kelly won the judges over with a song from a Broadway musical, naturally: Wicked's "Defying Gravity."
This article originally appeared on Usmagazine.com: Miss Iowa Pageant: Nicole Kelly Makes History as First Winner Without a Forearm