Miss America contestant defends 'just a nurse' speech: 'I want to be authentic'

/ Source: TODAY

One Miss America contestant's moving speech about her work as a nurse was one of the pageant's most memorable moments Sunday. But when Miss Colorado Kelley Johnson visited "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" this week, she revealed that "a lot of people" told her not to perform the monologue for the talent portion of the competition.

However, Johnson, 22, told the talk-show host that she wouldn't have it any other way.

"It's very unique, but I am a nurse," she said during the episode, which airs Thursday afternoon. "And that's my talent, taking care of people and caring about other people. And so I wanted to give the nurses that don't have that voice, that voice and that recognition of just somebody going up there and just being a little bit different and unique."

Miss Colorado Kelley Johnson attends the 2016 Miss America Competition at Boardwalk Hall Arena on Sept. 13 in Atlantic City, New Jersey.Donald Kravitz / Getty Images

Johnson added that she hoped her anecdote about Joe, a patient in the beginning stages of Alzheimer's, would resonate with Americans affected by the disease.

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"I talked about a patient that I took care of who had Alzheimer's — and I know that that hits home for a lot of people and it's not something that's really easy for people to talk about — and I just thought, 'You know, I want to go up there and I want to be authentic," she said. "I want to be Kelley. And if I'm ever going to win Miss America, or win Miss Colorado, I want to do it being myself. And I'm a nurse!"

Talk also turned to Johnson's comment during the pageant that she'd like to see DeGeneres' face on the $10 bill, which DeGeneres called "the best part of the entire show."

"I personally think you should have won, because that was a great answer, just thinking on your feet like that," DeGeneres said. "They gave you 20 seconds to answer that question. You probably had more nice things to say about me."

DeGeneres then graciously gave Johnson an opportunity to offer more compliments.

"This is an absolute dream come true for me. This woman is so intelligent. She's kind," Johnson began before a buzzer cut her off.

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Given another five seconds, she continued, "I think it's so amazing that she brings families together and gets them to their jobs with cars, is a complete philanthropist..."

"We don't have time for all the nice things I do," DeGeneres quipped.