Miss Iowa Winner Missing Left Forearm; Will Compete in Miss America

June 10, 2013 Updated: July 18, 2015

Nicole Kelly, a 23-year-old who was born with one arm, will compete in the Miss America competition after winning the Miss Iowa pageant.

“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 pageant site, according to Fox News.

The 23-year-old Keokuk native was born without her left forearm, according to her biography.

When she competes in the Miss America pageant, Kelly will speak about the importance of overcoming the challenges of having one arm.

She will describe “stepping up and saying, we may look different, we may say things differently, and do things differently, but we’re doing it right,” she told WHBF-TV.

According to her biography, she said she 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.”

She added: “If you would have told me a year ago that ‘pageant queen’ was in my future I would have laughed. So maybe I didn’t see this path coming my direction, but now that I am here I can see it is a perfect fit and I feel so blessed to have been surrounded by people who have encouraged my steps. Giving voice to a platform is a great honor and I am excited to continue my adventure of speaking out and touching lives.”