Atlantic City, N.J. — Miss New York Kira Kazantsev won the Miss America pageant Sept. 14, with the help of a red plastic cup.
Kazantsev received the crown at Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall from outgoing Miss America — and Miss New York — Nina Davuluri, an Indian American.
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.
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 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.