Nicole Kelly, born without an arm, crowned Miss Iowa

Nicole Kelly's official Miss Iowa portrait Miss Iowa/Facebook

Nicole Kelly is the new Miss Iowa, and as CBS affiliate WHBF reports, she's not your typical beauty queen.

Kelly was born without a left forearm. She told WHBF's Christine Souders that winning the title is her chance to speak out for girls struggling with being different.

She discovered the stage was the perfect way to get her message across.

"I found I could tell people it was acceptable to stare," she said. "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."

The 23-year-old performed the Broadway hit song from "Defying Gravity" from "Wicked" as her pageant talent. Her platform: "Overcoming Disabilities."

"A year ago, I certainly didn't see 'pageant titleholder' in my future. 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," she writes in her Miss Iowa biography.

Kelly aspires to be a Broadway stage manager. She graduated from the Johnny Carson School of Theatre and Film at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln last year.

Her parents told WHBF they couldn't be prouder.

"She defies all of it. There's nothing she can't do," said her mother. "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."

Kelly is taking her platform to September's Miss America pageant.

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