Like other contestants in the Miss America Pageant, 23-year-old Nicole Kelly has some incredible traits. She is intelligent, ambitious, with a friendly personality.


“The reason I’m here is not because I’m a public interest story,” she told The Associated Press in September. “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 to have.”


Miss Iowa 2013 (

While her arm seems to be the subject of most conversations, she is trying to get people to see past it. Kelly wants people to see past her disability and to see her for the Miss America candidate that she is. She also wants to be a shining beacon to those with disabilities to help them see past their perceived limitations and show everyone that there is no dream off limits.


Her inspirational stories and her positive look on life are so contagious, many are seeing her for more than for what simply meets the eye.


Over the past year or so, Kelly has been going to schools and art programs to try to inspire teens and young adults to reach for the stars. She says, however, that some of her experiences talking with kids and parents have been shocking:


“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.”


While some might still look at her lack of a forearm a challenge, Kelly is an inspiration to all of us to look past our own limitations and reach for the stars anyway. Her message is particularly resonating with teens from high school. Kelly is living proof that with a smile, positive attitude, and determination, you really can do anything.


“I’m proud to represent those who look differently,” she told the Associated Press last year. “But it’s about what you can do and how you celebrate it. I’m just like you.”


What do you think of Nicole Kelly’s story? Does her story inspire you to reach for more? What do you hope to see of her in the future? Let me know in the comments below or tweet me @kateeb790!