To say that Nicole Kelly could have won the Miss Iowa pageant with one arm tied behind her back wouldn’t strictly be an idiom. That’s because Kelly, a 23-year-old theater enthusiast and University of Nebraska at Lincoln grad, was born without her left forearm. So technically, she really did win the competition with one arm, which actually made her the first winner in history to be missing a limb.

In fact, Kelly’s disability is what eventually drew her to the theater. After having studied the subject in college, Miss Iowa earned a small role in the Tony-nominated Broadway play, The Assembled Parties.

Naturally, the aspiring Broadway Stage Manager wowed the judges in the talent portion of the competition with her rendition of “Defying Gravity,” a song from Wicked. Kelly will go on to compete for the Miss America title in September, where she’ll speak about the importance of overcoming a disability.

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