WASHINGTON: An Arkansas business student who once kicked so high she gave herself a black eye was crowned Miss America 2017 late Sunday.
Savvy Shields, 21, wore an elegant strapless black evening gown as she accepted the crown from the 2016 winner, Betty Cantrell of Georgia.
Shields then waved to the crowd at the auditorium in Atlantic City, New Jersey as the pageant’s classic theme song “There she is, Miss America,” played over the loudspeakers. The event was broadcast live on the ABC network.
Shields is a senior at the University of Arkansas where she studies Art with a minor in Business, according to her official biography.
For the talent portion of the contest Shields performed a jazz dance to a song from the TV series “Smash.”
This year’s judges – which included Olympic gold medal-winning gymnast Gabby Douglas, pop singer Ciara, and celebrity tech billionaire Mark Cuban – posed tough questions to the finalists on topics ranging from immigration to the US presidential race.
Shields answered a question about Hillary Clinton and the news media posed by Douglas.
The second runner-up was Miss New York, Camille Sims, and the first runner-up was Miss South Carolina, Rachel Wyatt. All runner-ups won scholarship money, the non-profit Miss America Organization said.
Shields will receive a hefty paycheck, expenses during the year, a $50,000 scholarship and an agreement to appear with the entertainment production company Dick Clark Productions.
Among the 52 original hopefuls was Erin O’Flaherty representing Missouri, the first openly lesbian Miss America contestant.
O’Flaherty however was not among the final 15 chosen to advance in the contest.
The most storied of US beauty pageants, Miss America earned some of the country’s highest TV ratings during its heyday in 1950s. More recently, it and other beauty pageants have been criticized as sexist and outdated.
Prominent past Miss America winners include actress Vanessa Williams, who became the first black winner in 1983.
She was forced to surrender her crown when it emerged that she had posed nude for Penthouse magazine.
Gretchen Carlson, the 1989 Miss America and former Fox TV news anchor, made headlines recently by winning a $20 million settlement after filing a sexual harassment suit against her onetime employer.