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Miss America Contestant Looks To Spotlight Disabilities


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A recent college graduate with special needs will compete in the Miss America pageant this fall with a platform focusing on overcoming disabilities.

Nicole Kelly, 23, was named Miss Iowa on Saturday. According to her biography, Kelly was born without her left forearm and plans to use her new position to speak out about disabilities and spotlight VSA, a program she participated in which provides opportunities in the arts for people with special needs.

“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,'” Kelly said in her bio.

“This means that I 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 said.

Kelly has a degree in directing and theater management from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and just finished working on the Broadway play “The Assembled Parties.”

With her new crown, Kelly will compete for the title of Miss America in the national pageant Sept. 15 in Atlantic City, N.J.

Kelly’s win comes on the heels of Alexis Wineman’s appearance in the last Miss America competition. As Miss Montana, Wineman was the first contestant with autism in the national pageant’s history.

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Comments (12 Responses)

  1. Suzanne M Richard says:

    Why do you use phrases like “overcoming disability?” You’re Disability Scoop! Try using positive wording! But otherwise, you go girl, and VSA could use the support!

  2. Julie says:

    Ms Kelly, you are stunning. Wishing you the best of luck in the competition.

  3. RC says:

    You are great Ms. Iowa ! Kelly my vote is yours and I am sure the best is yet to come for your dreams to continue being fulfilled!!!.

  4. RC says:

    You are great Ms. Iowa ! Ms. Kelly my vote is yours and I am sure the best is yet to come for your dreams to continue being fulfilled!!!.

  5. Lauri Sue Robertson says:

    What a beautiful woman she is! Who needs a left fore arm, anyway? She’s gorgeous without it!

  6. Christina says:

    Congrats Miss Kelly. You’re a inspiration to everyone. Whether one armed or two, it doesn’t mean you can’t follow your dreams. Reach for the stars and you’ll definitely go far.

  7. abraham says:

    go Kelly’s I wish you ALL the luck in the world

  8. Sue Keller says:

    I saw this article on Yahoo and, like Suzanne M Richard, was dismayed at the terminology “overcoming disability”. While that may work for someone who has a physical disability, it’s not happening so much for people with developmental disabilities. (Although for someone who suffers an injury resulting in disability, it may be appropriate during rehabilitation to suggest they try to regain as much function as possible.) But for the folks who can’t overcome disability, then what? They’re not worthy? They’re not doing their job, inspiring the rest of us? This concept of overcoming disability just fuels the stigma around being disabled. It sets up the dynamic of us who are not disabled vs. them, who are disabled. And we don’t want to be one of them, do we? Please, to anyone who wants to advocate for people with disabilities in a public forum: become more informed, think before you speak,understand exactly what you are advocating for.

  9. Joyce says:

    Two words: Inspiration porn.
    Disability Scoop, I expect better from you.

  10. Shari Sauer says:

    You go Kelly! Will be rooting for you! You’re gorgeous, smart, and a go-getter!!!

  11. Mark says:

    Sue, you missed the whole point and took it out of context. I just looked at the picture and she has not overcome the disability, in your sense of the phrase–she is still missing the arm.

    The context here was about bettering herself, and those around her, and making the world a better place. It did not matter whether her disability was physical, intellectual or cognitive.

    If you still do not get it, I have nothing else to say…

  12. Molly says:

    ‘special needs’ ??

    No, she’s just a gorgeous looking young woman with a lust for life. I’m stunned we still refer to people as having special needs.

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