Mallory Hagan, a 23-year-old woman who grew up in Alabama and moved to the Brooklyn borough of New York City, is the new Miss America.
Hagan won the title after tap dancing to James Brown's "Get Up Off Of That Thing," modeling an asymmetrical white evening gown and a black bikini, deftly dealing with a question about guns and raising the issue of child sexual abuse in her contestant platform.
She won a $50,000 college scholarship and a year as an instant celebrity and role model to many girls as she defeated Miss South Carolina Ali Rogers, who took second, and Miss Oklahoma Alicia Clifton, who finished third.
She told The Associated Press in an interview after her win that it was her mother who encouraged her to tackle the issue of child sex abuse in her platform - the issue she will promote during her reign.
She said that sexual abuse had "rippled through" her family, touching her mother, aunt, grandmother and cousins. Her mother had trouble at first convincing others of the trauma she had faced.
"That kind of sent her into a whirlwind of anxiety and depression. So as a teen I lost my mom kind of for a couple years," she said. "She was dealing with her own issues, and that's something that now as an adult I understand, but then I certainly did not."
During an interview backstage, Hagan's mother Mandy Moore wiped tears away as she spoke.
"It's very overwhelming," she said. "It's all hitting me so fast."
Hagan said she will work to make child abuse education mandatory in all 50 states.
"It's something I can hopefully change for the next generation," she said.
Hagan left her native Alabama for New York at 18 with less than $1,000 in her pocket. She tried for the Miss New York title in 2010 and 2011 before winning last year.
She studied communications at the Fashion Institute of Technology and aspires to be a global cosmetic company executive. She has been living in the Park Slope neighborhood of Brooklyn.
Hagan's boyfriend Charmel Maynard said he thinks that pageants are dismissed by some, but he hopes Hagan's willingness to take on the sexual abuse issue will lend legitimacy to her new role.
"I don't think it's taken seriously, but I think she's going to be a great ambassador and it could change," he said.