Her reign begins! Miss District of Columbia Kara McCullough was crowned Miss USA 2017 at Las Vegas’ Mandalay Bay Convention Center on Sunday, May 14.
The 25-year-old took home the title over first runner-up Miss New Jersey Chhavi Verg and second runner-up Miss Minnesota Meridith Gould. McCullough will go on to represent the United States in the 66th Miss Universe pageant.
Here are five things to know about Miss USA 2017:
1. She’s a chemist.
Beauty and brains! McCullough works as a chemist at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. “I love science,” she told reporters after the event, per NBC. “I look at this as a great opportunity to … get to experience worldwide culture, as well as just having the opportunity to be impacted by so many children, hopefully in the math and sciences.”
According to NBC, she plans to discuss with her supervisor whether she will take a leave of absence from her job during her one-year reign.
2. She was born in Italy.
She was born in Naples, Italy, and raised in Virginia Beach, Virginia. She has also lived in several other countries because of her father’s career as a now-retired U.S. Navy officer.
3. She attended South Carolina State University.
She graduated with a degree in chemistry and specialization in radiochemistry. At SCSU, she was a member of the Honors College, the American Association of Blacks in Engineering and the Alpha Nu Sigma Honor Society, according to The Times & Democrat.
4. She made D.C. back-to-back champs.
Miss USA 2016 Deshauna Barber, the first-ever active military member to receive the coveted title, was also from Washington, D.C. Barber attended this year’s ceremony and passed on the crown to her successor McCullough during the live broadcast.
4. She’s already controversial.
During the question-and-answer round for the top five finalists, she was criticized on social media for her answer. When asked whether health care is a right or a privilege, she replied, “I’m definitely going to say it’s a privilege. As a government employee, I’m granted health care and I see firsthand that for one to have health care, you need to have jobs.”
The top three finalists were also asked whether they consider themselves feminists, and social media was once again divided over her response. “I don’t want to call myself a feminist,” McCullough said. “Women, we are just as equal as men, especially in the workplace.”
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