ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Miss New York Nia Imani Franklin, a Winston-Salem native, was named Miss America 2019 in Atlantic City.
Her victory Sunday night resurrected a string of successes the Empire State has had in the pageant in recent years. Mallory Hagan, Nina Davuluri and Kira Kazantsev won the title from 2013 to 2015 competing as Miss New York.
A classical vocalist whose pageant platform is “advocating for the arts,” Franklin sang an operatic selection from the opera La Boheme on Sunday night.
She wrote her first song at age 6. It went “Love, love, love, love, is the only thing that matters to me, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey.”
She won a $50,000 scholarship along with the crown in the first Miss America pageant to be held without a swimsuit competition.
Franklin said during her onstage interview that she was one of only a small number of minority students in school growing up, but she used her love for music and the arts to grow and fit in.
The fourth runner up was Miss Massachusetts Gabriela Taveras, third runner up was Miss Florida Taylor Tyson, second runner up was Miss Louisiana Holli’ Conway, and the first runner up was Miss Connecticut Bridget Oei.
The judges narrowed the field of 51 candidates during the pageant Sunday night from Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall.
The decision to drop the swimsuit competition created a good deal of controversy and criticism of current Miss America leadership.
Minutes before the nationally televised broadcast began, a comedian warming up the crowd mentioned that there would be no swimsuit competition this year, and was met with loud boos in throughout the hall.
The swimsuits have been replaced by onstage interviews, which have generated attention-grabbing remarks from contestants regarding President Trump, and NFL player protests, among other topics.
Franklin earned a master’s degree in music composition from UNC School of the Arts.
In 2016, Franklin competed for the title of Miss North Carolina against 40 other women, but did not win the bid. She has a lengthy pageant resume, often winning awards for her talent as a classically trained opera singer.
Franklin, 24, who completed her undergraduate degree in music composition at East Carolina University, has expressed interest in a career in the film industry, composing music for movies.
Franklin, daughter of James and Kristy Franklin, is also a passionate advocate for cancer research, spurred by her father’s cancer diagnosis when she was a freshman in college.
At UNCSA, she also participated in ArtistCorps, an artist-driven AmeriCorps service program that places accomplished artists in public schools and community-based institutions to work with high-needs students.
Staff writer Jenny Drabble contributed to this report
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