Beating out 52 contestants from around the country (plus the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands), Miss New York Kira Kazantsev was crowned Miss America 2015 at the annual pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey, on Sunday, Sept. 14.
The 2013 queen, Mallory Hagan, and the 2014 winner, Nina Davuluri, the latter on-hand to pass on her tiara, both hailed from New York as well, making this a three-peat for the Empire State.
The blonde beauty, 22, seemed to be an early favorite: She sashayed down the ivory runway in her magenta bikini and sky-high heels with ease. Then, Kazantsev took the stage to sing a rendition of Pharrell’s Oscar-nominated hit, “Happy,” while keeping beat with a plastic red cup a la Anna Kendrick in Pitch Perfect.
To snag the win, the Hofstra University student, who walked away with a $50,000 scholarship, trumped the competition in the Q&A segment, when she thanked our female Senators for standing up for women in the military against assault, a position answered with applause from the audience in Boardwalk Hall. “Everyone deserves the right to be happy and be respected,” she said.
Other exciting moments during the competition: Early on in the night, Miss Idaho Sierra Sandison, a diabetic contestant who gained a following by competing in her home state while wearing her insulin pump, was awarded the “America’s Choice” spot.
Shortly after, hosts Chris Harrison and Lara Spencer announced that there would also be a 16th finalist—a last-minute “Judge’s Choice”—which went to Miss Congeniality, Miss North Dakota Jacky Arness.