Tears streamed down Miss District of Columbia Kára McCullough’s face as she was crowned the 2017 winner of the Miss USA Pageant on Sunday night. First runner-up Miss New Jersey Chhavi Verg wrapped her in a hug as second runner-up Miss Minnesota Meredith Gould cheered them on from behind.
During the question portion of the pageant, McCullough was asked if affordable healthcare is a right or privilege. She said that it is a privilege and that healthcare should only go to those with jobs. McCullough then added that it should be one of the country’s aims to create more jobs so that people can have access to healthcare.
Later on in the night, when McCullough was asked about the definition of feminism, she said that she’d like to “transpose” feminism to “equalism”. “I don’t want to call myself a feminist. Women, we are just as equal as men, especially in the workplace,” she said. The 25-year-old is the seventh-foreign born Miss USA, and was born in Naples, Italy, according to Fox News. She was crowned Miss DC 2017 in December 2016.
Read on to learn more about McCullough.
1. She Is a Scientist at the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission
McCullough works as a physical scientist at the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
In her intro video for the pageant, McCullough spoke about her definition of success:
My definition of success is not allowing fear or failure to define me… As a female scientist at the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission I feel successful walking into my agency, because I know only I can control my destiny. It all became clear that I am in competition with myself, when I overcame my fear of math at a young age, graduated with a degree in Radiochemistry and decided to be the only scholar in my class to major in Radiochemistry. Therefore, If I help one student pass math or chemistry, one young lady improve on the basketball court, one stranger learn about radiochemistry, I know that I have not allowed fear or failure to limit my success or ability to connect others.”
In a funny promo for Sunday night’s event, the contestants were asked what they’d be bringing in their suitcases to Las Vegas for the pageant. Kára was featured in the video, saying, “One: my glasses. I wear contacts. Nothing feels better than to take my contacts out and put some glasses on!”
2. She Graduated With a Degree in Chemistry From South Carolina State University
McCullough graduated from South Carolina State University with a degree in chemistry and concentration in radiochemistry. She was a member of S.C. State’s Honors College, the American Chemical Society, the Health Physics Society, the American Association of Blacks in Engineering and the American Nuclear Society. During her time at SC State University, McCullough was also inducted into the Alpha Nu Sigma Honor Society, the Golden Key International Honour Society and the National Society of Black Engineers, according to The Times & Democrat. The outlet reports that her philosophy in life is, “We all live and learn; therefore, nurture simplicity and humbleness.”
In 2012, McCullough was crowned the 75th Miss South Carolina State University at the school’s annual Coronation Ceremony. Her platform was “Keep Your Coins, Inspire for Change,” which centered on “the empowerment of young African-American women in science, technology, engineering and mechanical related subjects,” according to South Carolina State University’s website.
3. She Received Positive Attention for Wearing Her Hair Naturally Curly During the Pageant
McCullough received positive attention for wearing her hair naturally curly during the pageant, though she was nervous about the decision at first. Speaking to Refinery29 before Sunday’s event, the pageant-winner said, “When I chose to wear my hair curly, I was afraid… I didn’t know if people were going to accept it…if anyone was going to be receptive to it at all.”
The 25-year-old then said she ultimately decided it was best to embrace what makes her feel most comfortable and confident onstage. “Do what makes you comfortable, if you’ve been thinking about it, just do it. There will never be a right time to do it.”
The Twittersphere certainly took notice of Kara’s luscious curls, commenting on how the hairstyle was a welcome change.
4. She Funds an Outreach Science Program for Kids
According to Refinery29, McCullough funds a program called Science Exploration for Kids (SE4K), which offers math and science-based tutoring to students grades six to eleven. She admits that it really “gets her heart going” when children want to learn about science, and hopes she can inspire students through the organization. Speaking to press Sunday night after winning the crown, McCullough said, “I love science. 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.”
McCullough tells Refinery29, “I go to the schools to do science projects, tutoring, and presentations… I hope and pray these moments fuel them for their entire lives.” McCullough plans to use her platform to inspire children in science, engineering, technology, and math.
5. The Reigning Miss USA Is Also From DC
Deshauna Barber, the reigning Miss USA 2016, was originally Miss District of Columbia USA, as well. She recently spoke to Fox about what it feels like to hand over the crown. “Excited, but sad and anxious. Combination of feelings when you’re passing over your reign. You feel accomplished and humble and thankful for the experience. I feel lucky to be able to crown the next winner of 2017.”
Barber is a logistics commander in the US Army and an IT analyst for the US Department of Commerce. The focus of her pageant platform was PTSD treatment for soldiers returning from war. Barber placed in the top 9 at the Miss Universe pageant, and recently announced that once she hands over her crown, she is going to shift to working full-time as a motivational speaker.
McCullough will go on to represent the United States at the Miss Universe pageant later this year.