Miss New York Kira Kazantsev was crowned Miss America 2015 on Sunday night at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey. This is the third year in a row that a contestant from the state of New York has won the coveted title.
The crown was handed to Kazantsev by 2014 winner Nina Davuluri, who also is the first Indian-American to have won the title. The 23-year-old Kazantsev, who hails from Manhattan, sang Pharrell Williams’ hit song “Happy” while she sat cross-legged on the stage and banged a red plastic cup on the floor for the show's talent competition.
"The reason why I chose to do that talent is I wanted every single little girl in America to be able to see that you can do that talent -- you can do whatever talent you want on national television -- even with a red cup -- and still be Miss America and have the time of your life," Kazantsev said, according to The Associated Press. "I literally in that minute and 30 seconds had the most fun I've ever had, and that's because I stayed true to myself and I did what I wanted to do for my talent, no matter what everybody else told me, and it paid off. I'm very happy about it."
Kazantsev also reportedly said, while talking about her performance with the red cup, that she was inspired by a 2012 movie, “Pitch Perfect” in which the character played by Anna Kendrick auditions for an a capella group in a similar manner.
Kazantsev, who said she wants to campaign against domestic violence, won a $50,000 scholarship along with the title, and she reportedly intends to attend law school.
The first runner-up of the beauty pageant was Miss Virginia Courtney Paige Garrett, while the top 5 finalists were Miss Arkansas Ashton Jo Campbell; Miss Florida Victoria Cowen; and Miss Massachusetts Lauren Kuhn.
The judges of the pageant reportedly scored the contestants based on a talent competition, a personal interview, the answers the participants gave during an on-stage question and answer round, and their appearance in gowns and swimsuits.
Here is a video of Kazantsev's performance at the 2015 Miss America competition.