One-armed woman wins beauty queen title

Nicole Kelly, a 23-year-old, made history in the Miss Iowa beauty pageant by becoming the first contestant with a disability to win the crown(Photo: Miss Iowa 2013, Nicole Kelly Facebook page)

Nicole Kelly, a 23-year-old theatre intern with no left forearm, was crowned Miss Iowa in the US.

Winning the title in Davenport, Iowa on Saturday 8 June, she will go on to compete for the Miss America crown to be held on 15 September in Atlantic City, New Jersey, E! Online reported.

Kelly, who aspires to be a Broadway stage manager, wants to speak out about the importance of overcoming disabilities, she said on the official Miss Iowa website.

“I learned to offset the initial stares I received from people with (my) 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. I found my passion within a world where I was giving people permission to stare… the stage,” she wrote in her bio for the website.

Kelly studied theatre at the University of Nebrask-Lincoln, graduating in May 2012.

She has so far completed internships at the Broadway theatre company, Manhattan Theatre Club and Chicago’s Goodman Theatre.

At the start of the year, she was working behind the scenes as a child guardian for  the Broadway play, ‘The Assembled Parties’, which was nominated for Best Play at the 2013 Tony Awards.

As part of the talent showcase for the Miss Iowa pageant, she performed the musical number, ‘Defying Gravity’ from the musical ‘Wicked’.

Kelly is not the first contestant with a disability to take part in the Miss America pageant.

Alexis Wineman, who was Miss Montana, was the first autistic contestant to enter the competition last year and Alabama’s Heather Whitestone, who is deaf, won the title of Miss America in 1994, UK’s The Daily Mail reported.

Alexis Wineman (L) and Heather Whitestone (R) took part as contestants in the Miss America pageant despite their disabilities (Photo: Heather Whitestone and Alexis Wineman Facebook pages)

Winning the title of Miss Iowa was something Kelly never expected.

“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.”

Kelly also won more than US$10,000 (S$12,600) in scholarship money from the pageant, The Huffington Post reported.

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