September 15, 2014 / 3:38 AM / 4 years ago

New Yorker Kira Kazantsev 'Happy' to be crowned Miss America

Newly-crowned Miss America 2015 Kira Kazantsev leaps into the air while posing for photographs during her '"Toe Dip" along the beachfront of Boardwalk Hall the morning after she won the 2015 Miss America Competition in Atlantic City, New Jersey September 15, 2014. REUTERS/Adrees Latif

(Reuters) - New Yorker Kira Kazantsev won the coveted 2015 Miss America Pageant crown on Sunday, a “three-peat” for contenders from the Big Apple.

As part of the competition, Kazantsev, 23, sang Pharrell William’s song “Happy”, keeping time by tapping a red plastic cup. She said in a question-and-answer segment that sexual assault in the U.S. military was a problem that needed to be addressed by U.S. lawmakers.

Wearing a long-sleeved, backless white gown and clutching red roses, the newest Miss America walked the runway with a wide smile and waved to a cheering crowd in Atlantic City, where the 94-year-old beauty pageant returned last year after eight years in Las Vegas.

Kazantsev’s win marked New York’s third consecutive Miss America title. The crown was handed to Kazantsev by Nina Davuluri, a New Yorker and the first Indian-American winner. Davuluri was the successor to Mallory Hagan from New York.

The title comes with a $50,000 scholarship.

Kira’s platform is focused on protecting women from domestic violence, and the Miss America Organization said she regularly spoke at homeless and domestic violence shelters.

Pageant judges scored contestants from the 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands based on a talent competition, a personal interview, their answers to an on-stage question, and their appearance in gowns and swimsuits.

Atlantic City officials hope the pageant will help revive the city in the wake of recent financial turmoil. The pageant was held in a hall next to Trump Plaza, whose slated shutdown on Tuesday means the gambling mecca will have lost a third of its casinos since the start of the year.

Reporting by Carey Gillam; Editing by Paul Tait and Stephen Coates

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