With a red cup, she becomes Miss America
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Miss New York, Kira Kazantsev, won the Miss America pageant Sunday night, with the help of a red plastic cup.
For her talent performance, Kazantsev sang Pharrell Williams' "Happy" while sitting cross-legged on the stage and banging a red plastic cup on the floor. That immediately touched off a furor on social media networks, where many were critical of her performance.
Kazantsev said she was inspired by the 2012 movie "Pitch Perfect," in which Anna Kendrick's character auditions for an a capella group by performing rhythmically with a cup. She also said she did it to show future contestants they can win the Miss America pageant by performing whatever talent routine they like, regardless of what others think of it.
"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. "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 named combating sexual assault in the military as the issue about which she would want female U.S. senators to press their male counterparts. She won a $50,000 scholarship with which she plans to attend law school.
She also plans to speak out against domestic violence during her yearlong reign as Miss America.
Her victory marked the third year in a row that a contestant from her state has walked away with the crown.
Kazantsev will begin a schedule this week that will see her travel 20,000 miles a month.
The first runner-up was Miss Virginia, Courtney Paige Garrett.
Other top 5 finalists were Miss Arkansas, Ashton Jo Campbell; Miss Florida, Victoria Cowen; and Miss Massachusetts, Lauren Kuhn.
Miss North Dakota, Jacky Arness, was chosen by her peers as Miss Congeniality.
Critical thinking challenge: The continental United States is about 3,000 miles wide. Why will Miss America travel 20,000 miles per month?