Nicole Kelly might have been born missing a forearm, but that hasn’t stopped her one bit.

The 23-year-old beauty queen with one arm didn’t let her disability stop her from competing in the 2013 Miss Iowa pageant, where she was named the winner on Saturday in Davenport to represent the state in the Miss America pageant. Kelly, a Keokuk, Iowa-native, was born without her left forearm. She has used humor throughout her life to explain what happened, and she often joked throughout her life that a shark bit it off.

“As I grew up I learned to counterbalance the initial stares I received from people with an outgoing personality that would not give in to ‘no,’” she wrote on the Miss Iowa website. “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.”

The blonde beauty plans to speak about the importance of overcoming disabilities during the competition after living her life with one functional arm.


"She defies all of it. There's nothing she can't do. I think it's great she's going to be able to prove that and encourage others that may have a disability or some sort of challenge,” her parents told CBS news affiliate WHBF-TV.

"I found I could tell people it was acceptable to stare. It was the place that was kind of an outlet for me, a place I could stand up and be myself, and say here I am, and I'm confident in myself,” she told WHBF of the stage.

Kelly, who studied theater at University of Nebraska-Lincoln, wants to be a Broadway stage manager someday, and will use her vocal talent to sing “Defying Gravity” from the Broadway “Wicked” production. The 2012 graduate said she is still shocked that she was named Miss Iowa on Saturday but is looking forward to the opportunity to discuss overcoming disabilities with the public.

“If you would have told me a year ago that ‘pageant queen’ was in my future I would have laughed,” she wrote. “Giving voice to a platform is a great honor and I am excited to continue my adventure of speaking out and touching lives.”

Nicole Kelly has spent the past few years in Iowa, Illinois and New York, where she did work with The Broadway theatre company Manhattan Theatre Club and in Chicago with the Goodman Theatre.

Kelly and the other contestants will compete in the Miss America 2013 pageant in Atlantic City, N.J., on Sept. 15.