Miss Arkansas, Savvy Shields, was crowned Miss America 2017 on Sunday night, beating 51 other contestants to win the grand prize of a scholarship of $50,000. The preceding Miss America, Betty Cantrell, crowned Shields at the conclusion of the event that was held at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
The first and second runner-up positions went to Miss South Carolina Rachel Wyatt and Miss New York Camille Sims respectively. Miss Washington, Alicia Cooper won the third-runner up position while Miss Mississippi Laura Lee Lewis was the fourth runner-up. The rest of the finalists were Miss Kentucky, Miss Massachusetts, Miss Idaho, Miss Iowa, Miss Texas, Miss California, Miss Oklahoma, Miss Maryland, Miss Tennessee, and Miss Louisiana.
Sunday’s pageant had included contestants from all 50 states of the United States of America, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. This year’s pageant stood out for including the first-ever openly homosexual contestant, Erin O’Flaherty (Miss Missouri). “Behind the scenes, we’ve been well-represented, but I’m the first openly gay title holder, so I’m very excited,” O’Flaherty had told NBCNews before the pageant, who had been hopeful of being the first contestant to represent the LGBT community. However, she did not get the opportunity to reach out to more people as she wasn’t selected as part of the Top 15 for Sunday’s finale.
The 21-year-old Shields had earlier won the talent segment of the pageant, held on September 7, where she performed a dance routine to the song “They Just Keep Moving the Line” from the popular television show Smash. On Sunday night, the fine arts major from the University of Arkansas impressed the judges after her bold yet diplomatic answer in the final round. Asked her opinion about Hillary Clinton‘s presidential campaign, Shields said: “If you’re trying to be a leader of the free world, everything you say and do matters and all of your actions are held to a higher standard. Both of the contestants have done a good job but they also need to watch what they’re doing.” She later elaborated on her opinion after the pageant, where she clarified that politicians in the US should focus more on pursuing the country’s ideals rather than be preoccupied in defending themselves all the time.