Miss New York Kira Kazantsev crowned Miss America Sunday night

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon

52 PHOTOS
Miss America 2015 - Miss New York Kira Kazantsev - 9/14/2014
See Gallery
Miss New York Kira Kazantsev crowned Miss America Sunday night
Miss New York Kira Kazantsev poses for photographers during a news conference after she was crowned Miss America 2015 during the Miss America 2015 pageant, Monday, Sept. 15, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Miss New York Kira Kazantsev talks during a news conference after she was crowned Miss America 2015 during the Miss America 2015 pageant, Monday, Sept. 15, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Miss New York Kira Kazantsev poses for photographers during a news conference after she was crowned Miss America 2015 during the Miss America 2015 pageant, Monday, Sept. 15, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Miss New York Kira Kazantsev, right, walks the runway after she was named Miss America 2015 during the Miss America 2015 pageant, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Miss New York Kira Kazantsev waves after being crowned Miss America 2015 during the Miss America 2015 pageant, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Miss New York Kira Kazantsev, right, walks the runway after she was named Miss America 2015 during the Miss America 2015 pageant, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. Miss America 2014 Nina Davuluri, left, who was also once Miss New York, looks on during the walk. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Miss New York Kira Kazantsev, right, gets a kiss from her mother, Julia Kazantsev, after Kira Kazantsev was crowned Miss America 2015 during the Miss America 2015 pageant, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Miss New York Kira Kazantsev walks the runway after being crowned as Miss America 2015 during the Miss America 2015 pageant, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Miss New York Kira Kazantsev walks the runway after being crowned as Miss America 2015 during the Miss America 2015 pageant, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Miss America 2014 Nina Davuluri, top, crowns Miss New York Kira Kazantsev as Miss America 2015 during the Miss America 2015 pageant, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Miss New York Kira Kazantsev, left, gasps after she was named Miss America 2015 as she holds hands with Miss Virginia Courtney Paige Garrett during the Miss America 2015 pageant, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Miss Massachusetts Lauren Kuhn, center, celebrates, while holding the hands of Miss Alabama Caitlin Brunell, left, and Miss Mississippi Jasmine Murray after advancing to the final round of the Miss America 2015 pageant, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Miss America 2014 Nina Davuluri, top right, crowns Miss New York Kira Kazantsev as Miss America 2015 during the Miss America 2015 pageant, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Miss New York Kira Kazantsev, left, celebrates after she is named Miss America 2015 during the Miss America 2015 pageant, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. Also seen is Miss Virginia Courtney Paige Garrett, who took first runner up honors. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
The top five finalists in the Miss America 2015 pageant stand together, from left, Miss Massachusetts Lauren Kuhn, Miss Florida Victoria Cowen, Miss Arkansas Ashton Jo Campbell, Miss New York Kira Kazantsev and Miss Virginia Courtney Paige Garrett, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. Kazantsev was crowned Miss America 2015. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Miss Virginia Courtney Paige Garrett, right, gasps after she is announced as a finalist during the Miss America 2015 pageant, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. Garrett took first runner up honors while Miss New York Kira Kazantsev won the crown. Looking on are Miss Oklahoma Alex Eppler, left, and Miss Tennessee Hayley Lewis. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Miss Tennessee Hayley Lewis sings during the talent portion of the Miss America 2015 pageant, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Miss Massachusetts Lauren Kuhn plays the piano during the talent portion of the Miss America 2015 pageant, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Miss Florida Victoria Cowen dances during the talent portion of the Miss America 2015 pageant, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Miss Ohio Mackenzie Bart performs during the talent portion of the Miss America 2015 pageant, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Miss Florida Victoria Cowen dances during the talent portion of the Miss America 2015 pageant, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Miss Florida Victoria Cowen displays her swimsuit during the Miss America 2015 pageant, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Contestants don their swimsuits during the Miss America 2015 pageant, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Miss Arizona Outstanding Teen Amber Barto waits for start of the Miss America 2015 pageant, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Miss Idaho Sierra Sandison, left, celebrates after she's announced as a finalist during the Miss America 2015 pageant, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Miss Florida Outstanding Teen Michaela McLean, 16, left, and Miss Nevada Outstanding Teen Amy Smith, 15, tap hands before the start of the Miss America 2015 pageant, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Miss America 2014 Nina Davuluri walks on stage during the Miss America 2015 pageant, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Miss Oregon Rebecca Anderson takes the stage with contestants during the Miss America 2015 pageant, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Miss Utah Karlie Major, bottom right, stands with other contestants as supporters hold up signs during the Miss America 2015 pageant, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Miss Massachusetts Lauren Kuhn celebrates after moving on to the evening gown portion of the Miss America 2015 pageant, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Miss Massachusetts Lauren Kuhn, center, celebrates after advancing to the evening gown portion of the Miss America 2015 pageant, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Miss Oklahoma Alex Eppler dances during the talent portion of the Miss America 2015 pageant, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Miss Arkansas Ashton Jo Campbell sings during the talent portion of the Miss America 2015 pageant, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Miss Utah Karlie Major, bottom right, stands with other contestants as supporters hold up signs during the Miss America 2015 pageant, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Miss New York Kira Kazantsev displays her swimsuit during the Miss America 2015 pageant, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Miss New York Kira Kazantsev displays her swimsuit during the Miss America 2015 pageant, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Miss Mississippi Jasmine Murray sings during the talent portion of the Miss America 2015 pageant, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Contestants don their swimsuits during the Miss America 2015 pageant, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Miss Texas Monique Evans walks on stage during the swimsuit portion of the Miss America 2015 pageant, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Miss Florida Victoria Cowen displays her swimsuit during the Miss America 2015 pageant, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Miss Florida Victoria Cowen dances during the talent portion of the Miss America 2015 pageant, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Miss Ohio Mackenzie Bart performs during the talent portion of the Miss America 2015 pageant, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Miss Florida Victoria Cowen dances during the talent portion of the Miss America 2015 pageant, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Miss Massachusetts Lauren Kuhn plays the piano during the talent portion of the Miss America 2015 pageant, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Miss Tennessee Hayley Lewis sings during the talent portion of the Miss America 2015 pageant, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Miss New York Kira Kazantsev displays her swimsuit during the Miss America 2015 pageant, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Miss Massachusetts Lauren Kuhn, center, celebrates after advancing to the evening gown portion of the Miss America 2015 pageant, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Miss Massachusetts Lauren Kuhn celebrates after moving on to the evening gown portion of the Miss America 2015 pageant, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Miss Oklahoma Alex Eppler dances during the talent portion of the Miss America 2015 pageant, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Miss Kentucky Ramsey Carpenter walks on stage during the swimsuit portion of the Miss America 2015 pageant, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Miss Oregon Rebecca Anderson takes the stage with contestants during the Miss America 2015 pageant, Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) - 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.

But 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.

"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. "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, who named combating sexual assault in the military as the issue about which she would want female U.S. Senators to press their male counterparts, 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 resign as Miss America.

Her victory marked the third year in a row that a contestant from her state has walked away with the crown in the nationally televised pageant. Kazantsev received the crown at Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall from outgoing Miss America - and Miss New York - Nina Davuluri

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.

The pageant shone a positive light on the struggling seaside gambling resort, which has been in the national news for all the wrong reasons lately: a rash of casino closings, thousands of unemployed workers, and a domestic violence case involving a former NFL star.

For three hours Sunday night, America got a different look at Atlantic City. The Miss America pageant presented an upbeat view of the city where it began in 1921.

It featured iconic Atlantic City visuals including its beach, Boardwalk, the Steel Pier, Black Fish Pier near Brigantine, and the Atlantic City Beach Patrol station.

"Atlantic City is facing a challenging economic climate and our hearts go out to all of those who have lost their jobs," said Sam Haskell III, CEO of the Miss America organization. "We hope that our Miss America telecast ... will generate great interest for Atlantic City on a national scale as we showcase their beautiful beaches and Boardwalk."

Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC

Read Full Story

From Our Partners