Miss Georgia (aka Betty Cantrell) has officially been named the 95th Miss America, defeating her fierce competition to take the crown during Sunday’s annual nationally televised pageant.
Cantrell was enthroned by last year’s reigning champion, former Miss New York Kira Kazantsev, at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall in New Jersey.
“The Crowning of Miss Georgia, as our 95th Anniversary Miss America, officially starts the five year countdown towards our Centennial,” Sam Haskell, executive chairman and CEO of the Miss America Organization told PEOPLE in a statement. “As the largest provider of scholarships for women in the U.S., the Miss America Organization is poised to be the leading advocate for the empowerment of women, something that makes me very proud!”
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The judging panel for this year’s competition included a surprising last-minute addition – Vanessa Williams. The actress was the pageant’s first African-American winner in 1983, but famously resigned only 10 months into her reign after nude photographs of herself surfaced.
Williams long spoke about the repercussions of being what she has called a “scandalous Miss America.”
“For years, I’d walk into an audition and feel the judgment,” Williams told PEOPLE in 2012, and added, “But I silently thought, one day you’ll see what I’m made of.”
• With reporting by LIZ MCNEIL