Kira Kazantsev, Miss New York, was crowned Miss America 2015 Sunday, Sept. 14, beating out 52 young women to win the coveted title and a $50,000 scholarship.

Miss New York Kira Kazantsev Named Miss America

Kazantsev, formerly Miss New York, beat out finalists, Miss Arkansas Ashton Jo Campbell, Miss Florida Victoria Cowen, Miss Massachusetts Lauren Kuhn and Miss Virginia Courtney Paige Garrett, who was named first runner-up. Kazantsev is the third Miss New York to win the crown in as many years, following in the footsteps of 2014’s Miss America, Nina Davuluri.

Miss America Organization Misspells 'Jane Austen'

Kazantsev, 23, a Hofstra graduate who has hopes of going to law school, jumped on the Pitch Perfect bandwagon for her talent portion, singing Pharrell’s “Happy” while keeping time with a red, plastic cup. (Though, it should be noted that Kazantsev was not singing accapella.) Kazantsev said she wanted to put a spin on the traditional singing performance, telling the New York Post, “It’s not your average Miss America talent in terms of singing Broadway tunes or opera. I’m sticking to what I can do.”

Kazantsev’s talent performance was almost overshadowed for viewers at home when a pop up message declared that Miss New York “Loves anything Jane Austin [sic],” misspelling the author’s name, which is Jane Austen.

Miss America On Domestic Violence

Kazantsev hopes to use her Miss America title to become an advocate for victims of domestic violence. During the question and answer segment of the competition, Kazantsev expressed a desire for better legislation regarding the handling of sexual assault in the military. Contestants were asked questions ranging from gun control to the recent Ray Rice scandal, a subject Kazantsev later touched on in an interview with NPR.

In the interview, the newly crowned Miss America revealed she was in an abusive relationship in college, and she wants the public to stop criticizing Janay Rice for staying with her husband despite the abuse.

“I want people to stop asking, ‘Why doesn’t she just leave?’ Every woman is an expert in her own case, and there are so many extenuating circumstances that lead to a woman staying with her abuser,” Kazantsev said.

Kazantsev added that her goal moving forward will be to keep the public conversation about domestic violence alive. “The main goal is to get people talking about it. If people are willing to talk about it, they’re not scared of it, it’s not taboo.”

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