2017 Miss USA Competition

This article originally appeared in Essence by Nikki Brown.

The interwebs are ruthless territory and Kára McCullough learned that the hard way on Sunday night (May 14). Shortly after being crowned this year’s Miss USA, the District of Columbia pageant queen began trending for all the wrong reasons. In a question and answer portion that made its way to Twitter, the 25-year-old scientist ruffled more than a few feathers with her views on healthcare and feminism.

“I’m definitely going to say it’s a privilege,” when asked about access to medical services. “As a government employee, I’m granted health care and I see firsthand that for one to have health care, you need to have jobs.”

She also labeled herself as a “equalist” when asked to define feminism. “I don’t want to call myself a feminist,” she said. “Women, we are just as equal as men, especially in the workplace.”

Her polarizing comments have been met with harsh criticism, but there’s a silver lining. As the second Black woman in a row to take the national crown (Deshauna Barber was the first), McCullough has been equally outspoken about the choice to wear her natural curls.

In an exclusive interview with Refinery29, she detailed just how important it was to go against the grain of traditionally straight-haired pageant hairstyles.

“I decided to embrace what makes me feel comfortable and what makes me feel the best and brightest on stage, but also embrace what other people can relate to,” she shared. “That typical, traditional sleek hair with a big tease, not to say it’s gone out the window, but it’s transitioning a lot.”

“When I choose to wear my hair curly, I was afraid. I didn’t know if people were going to accept it…if anyone was going to be receptive to it at all.”

Needless to say, the Internet reacted more favorably to seeing McCullough and Barber in their curly crown glory. Seeing back-to-back winners with natural hair is definitely a first and we’re ecstatic to see such a defining moment materialize before our eyes. false false false

We look forward to the day that natural hair will be the norm in both the workplace and national stage. Until then, we’ll continue to celebrate moments like there. Learn more about Kára McCullough here.