Nia Franklin, a Winston-Salem, North Carolina native and a 2015 alumna of East Carolina University, won the title of Miss America 2019 on Sunday night at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
The 23-year-old Miss New York beat out 50 other contestants for the title and won $50,000 in college scholarship money.
"It took a lot of perseverance to get here," Franklin said on stage after her win. "I want to thank my beautiful family, my mom and my dad, who is a survivor of cancer."
During the talent portion of the event, Franklin delivered an operatic performance, which correlated to the entire platform of her pageant run. Franklin’s pageant platform is Music for Life, a cause she uses to advocate for music education and raise money for the American Cancer Society, according to the Winston-Salem Journal.
As an undergraduate student of ECU’s School of Music, Franklin was crowned as Miss Black and Gold, a scholarship pageant sponsored by the Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity. Franklin went on to continue her graduate studies at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts where she earned her master’s degree in music composition.
While completing her undergraduate studies at ECU her father, James Franklin, received a diagnosis of lymphoma. After years of chemotherapy and other cancer treatments, Franklin became the donor for her father’s stem cell transplant.
During her 2019 reign as Miss America, Franklin will promote her own social impact initiative called Advocating for the Arts, which will promote diversity within arts education and implement funding-based programs for schools around the country that lack arts departments, according to ABC News.
Marketed on social media as Miss America 2.0, Sunday's Miss America was the first to suspend a “swimsuit competition” since its first event in 1921. Franklin is the first Miss America title holder since the rebranding of the competition in the wake of the #MeToo movement, which was officially announced by the chairwoman of the Miss America board of directors Gretchen Carlson on Jan. 5.