LIFESTYLE

Meet Miss Iowa, The Beauty Queen Without A Left Forearm Raising Awareness For Disability

11/07/2014 14:42 BST | Updated 01/04/2015 17:59 BST

A beauty queen with one arm is using her title to raise awareness of disability.

Nicole Kelly beat off hundreds of rivals to take the Miss Iowa 2014 crown and is now hoping to encourage children with disabilities to pursue their dreams.

The 23-year-old, from Davenport in Iowa, America, was born without a left forearm, but has never let anything hold her back.

beauty pageant

Before winning the pageant last June, Nicole worked on a Broadway play in New York.

The Theatre Management university graduate credits the experience for boosting her confidence and preparing her for the pageant.

“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,” said Nicole.

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“This means that I tried everything. From baseball, to dance, to diving - there is nothing I would not try," she added.

“I found my passion within a world where I was giving people permission to stare - the stage.”

Beauty Queen, Born With One Arm

Now Nicole uses her position to speak about disability in schools and supports a programme providing art opportunities for people with special needs.

And an important part of her work is meeting with parents of children with disabilities.

Nicole said: “Meeting the parents of amputee and physically differently-abled children has been a shocking experience at times.

“I had assumed everyone else’s parents would be like mine, but many are far more concerned about limiting their child’s lives to protect them from harm.

“I saw then that I could make a change by showing these parents that their child can and should be able to do anything they want.

“Once parents accept this, it makes such a huge difference to how their child experiences and responds to their difference."

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Now Nicole has launched a campaign called ‘the power of one’ to encourage people to embrace their differences.

“Every day I am out in the community speaking with people,” she said.

“I encourage people to share their stories about how they've felt different and celebrate it.”

CORRECTION: An earlier version of the slideshow above inaccurately referred to Nicole Kelly as an amputee. As noted elsewhere in the story, she was born with one arm.