Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : September 18th 2013 Contents A32
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ATLANTIC CITY---Born without her left forearm,
Nicole Kelly has been overcoming disability her
entire life. Now representing Iowa in the Miss
America pageant, Kelly hopes to win the crown
and inspire others to overcome their own dif-
She chooses to focus on what she has rather
than what she lacks.
"The reason I m here is not because I m a public
interest story," she told The Associated Press in
an interview Monday, in between rehearsals for
three nights of preliminary competition that started
yesterday. "I m here not because I look different
but because I have the intelligence, I have the
ability and all the things that Miss America needs
"I m proud to represent those who look differ-
ently, but it s about what you can do and how
you celebrate it," she said. "I m just like you."
She said she developed an outgoing personality
"that would not give in to no " as a way to deal
with the stares she often got.
The 23-year-old resident of Keokuk, Iowa, a
Mississippi River town, Kelly said she never let
her disability stop her from doing what she wanted.
She played baseball, swam and dove, danced.
"I just did it," she said. "There never was an
issue. No excuses, nor should there have been."
Kelly said people she met while growing up
generally went through three phases: the first was
when she approached them, because they were
too intimidated to approach her. The second was
when they grew comfortable enough to ask her
questions like, "How do you do your hair?" or
"How do you tie your shoes?"
In this September 3 photograph, Miss Iowa, Nicole
Kelly, front row, centre, stands with other Miss
America contestants during arrival ceremonies in
Atlantic City, New Jersey. AP PHOTO
Miss America hopeful advocates for disabled
The third phase "was when they com-
pletely forgot about it" and just saw her
as Nikki, not a person with a disability.
She entered her first pageant this Jan-
uary, fell in love with the competition
and won, advancing through the ranks
to win the Miss Iowa crown. She was
soon inundated with media attention, not
all of it welcome.
She said one TV station surreptitiously
shot close-ups of her partial arm without
her realising it and made that a central
part of their report.
"I got a lot of unwanted attention, but
there s also the flip side of this enormous
platform" to bring attention to people
Since graduating from the University
of Nebraska-Lincoln, Kelly has landed
internships in theaters in Santa Fe, New
Mexico; Chicago and New York. That led
to a paid job as the guardian for child
actors in the Broadway play The Assem-
Kelly is scheduled to sing during the
talent portion of the competition. She
hopes to work in theater management---
after winning the Miss America pageant.
"It would definitely be cool to win the
crown, but I want the job: I want to be
in a new city every second day, I want
to log 20,000 miles on airplanes and meet
new people all the time."
She would not be the first Miss America
with a disability. In 1995, Miss Alabama,
Heather Whitestone won the crown with
a hearing impairment.
The 2014 Miss America will be crowned
Sunday night in Atlantic City s Boardwalk
Hall, as the pageant returns home after
a six-year stint in Las Vegas.
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