There’s a new crown in town!
Kaliegh Garris was crowned Miss Teen USA on Sunday, winning out over runner-up Miss North Dakota Kaitlyn Vogel. The 18-year-old Connecticut native showed off her natural curls as she tearfully accepted the crown.
Garris, who took home the title for Miss Connecticut Teen USA in January, held hands and swapped encouraging smiles with Vogel as they waited for the winner to be announced. When Miss Connecticut was named, the new pageant queen turned around in disbelief and cheered, holding her face in her hands and crying before jumping up and down in delight.
#MissTeenUSA 2019 is… CONNECTICUT! 👑
— Miss USA & Miss Teen USA (@MissUSA) April 29, 2019
https://platform.twitter.com/widgets.jsGarris’ hands shook as she accepted her sash and crown, which was placed atop her voluminous curls before she took her first walk as the official Miss Teen USA.
In an interview with Refinery29, Garris said that she prepped her hair herself before the competition.
“The night before, I finger curled every single piece of my hair in the shower, which led to a very long shower, but it was for the greater good,” she shared. “I know what I look like with straight hair, with extensions, and with my curly hair, and I feel more confident and comfortable with my natural hair.”
According to the Miss Universe Organization, Garris attends two high schools: the Joseph A. Foran High School in Milford, Connecticut, and the Educational Center for the Arts, where she specializes in theater.
Also a competitive dancer, Garris founded the We Are People 1st initiative, which honors her older sister Chauntel, who has “multiple disabilities,” Garris shared in an Instagram post announcing the launch in February. The movement aims to educate youth “on how to respectfully discuss/speak to people with a health issue or disability,” in addition to combatting stigmas associated with disabilities.
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SOURCE: PEOPLE, Sophie Dodd