Miss America 2023 is self-declared 'nuclear nerd' Grace Stanke from Wisconsin

Engineering student advocates for world to convert to zero-carbon energy

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A nuclear engineering student whose ambition is to stop our reliance on carbon energy has been crowned Miss America 2023.

Grace Stanke, representing the state of Wisconsin, beat 50 other contestants to the title on Thursday night, one from each state plus a representative from the District of Columbia. She impressed the judges with her answers as well as her violin-playing in the talent round.

Miss New York Taryn Delanie Smith was crowned first runner-up, while Miss Texas Averie Bishop was named second runner-up at the event, held at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut.

Stanke, 20, who describes herself as a "nuclear nerd", is a student at the University of Wisconsin. In her profile on the Miss America website, she says she has made it her goal to break down misconceptions surrounding nuclear power.

Taryn Delanie Smith, left, and Grace Stanke celebrate at the event. AP

"America needs to convert to zero-carbon energy sources," she says. "I advocate for nuclear power and improved communication about nuclear science with both the general public and nuclear engineers to bridge the gap of the unknown between the two groups of people."

Stanke succeeds Emma Broyles, who became the first Korean-American as well as the first Miss Alaska to win the Miss America title.

Broyles arrived on Thursday wearing a dress printed with the faces of all the previous Miss America winners, designed by former Project Runway contestant Aaron Michael in association with Viper Apparel.

"We couldn't be here as an organisation without them," Broyles said on stage.

While Miss America titleholders do not represent the US at any global pageants, it is one of the oldest beauty pageants in existence, originating in 1921 as a swimsuit competition. The contest has evolved over the years, and in 1945 started awarding university scholarships to the winner instead of prize money.

It made news in 2018 when it announced it was dropping the swimsuit and evening gown competition and would no longer judge contestants on their physical appearance.

Rival contest, Miss USA, picks the US representative for the global Miss Universe competition. Beauty queen R'Bonney Gabriel made history in October by becoming became the first Filipina-American to be named Miss USA, beating 49 other candidates.

As Miss America, Stanke will travel extensively across the US for the next year, to advance the goals of the Miss America Organisation, as well as her own advocacy.

Miss USA R’Bonney Gabriel, the first Filipina-American to win the crown — in pictures

Updated: December 16, 2022, 9:13 AM
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