On Saturday, the world of the reigning Miss Iowa, Nicole Kelly, once again will change dramatically.
It changed last year after she became Miss Iowa 2013, launching her on a journey that took her to Atlantic City for the Miss America Pageant, followed by what she called the tough yet rewarding job of representing the state of Iowa everywhere she went.
Her life will change when she passes the crown to Miss Iowa 2014.
“It’s been amazing,” Kelly, 24, said of the past year. “I’ve learned and experienced so much. The normal in my life now is a world where it’s not weird for me to be shopping at Walmart and someone stops me and wants a picture taken with me.”
Taking a deep breath, and thinking ahead to Saturday when she will place the crown on Miss Iowa 2014, Kelly added, “It’s going to be bittersweet, but it’s time for the bubble to pop. It’s time to move on.”
While born with half a left arm, Kelly, of Keokuk, has always lived to the fullest, competing in sports and all other activities.
"The whole message of my year as Miss Iowa is that your attitude defines who you are, not the way you look," she said. "Your heart and your desire to accomplish the goals you set in life are what define you.”
After a five-day tour of Puerto Rico with the reigning Miss Puerto Rico Shenti Laurenhen, it will be back to work for Kelly with speaking engagements, summer camps and taking stock of the opportunities being Miss Iowa has afforded her.
“Being Miss Iowa is a huge stepping stone for the future,” Kelly said. Of course, she added, it has to be done right. “My advice to the next Miss Iowa is that the year is what she decides to make of it.”
There are 15 women vying for the title of Miss Iowa 2014. The winner will head to Atlantic City in September to compete in the Miss America Pageant.
In addition to the Miss Iowa Pageant, 11 contestants will compete for the title of Miss Iowa's Outstanding Teen, the winner of which will compete for Miss America's Outstanding Teen during competition from July 25 through Aug. 3 in Orlando, Fla.