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May 15, 2017 09:24 AM

When most people think of beauty pageants, a very particular aesthetic comes to mind. There’s typically a lot of sequins, a lot of tulle, layers of camera-ready makeup, spray tans, and hairsprayed bouffants ten miles high. But one contestant decided to break with that tradition on Sunday night, as former Miss DC and current Miss USA title holder Kára McCullough decided to embrace her natural hair texture and let her curls take center stage while accepting her crown and sash.

The competition winner spoke with Refinery29, telling the website, “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.” But despite her trepidations she says, “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. That typical, traditional sleek hair with a big tease, not to say it’s gone out the window, but it’s transitioning a lot.” The newly crowned winner worked with CHI Haircare stylist Albert Luiz to make her locks look their best, and the reaction on social media to her hairstyle was nothing but enthusiastic, unlike the response to some of her other on-stage statements that night.

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“When I didn’t see anyone in competitions with my hairstyle, I decided wanted to be the mold.” And her hair isn’t the only way McCullough is changing the face of what it means to be a pageant girl, she’s also a nuclear scientist at the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission and founded a self-funded outreach program called Science Exploration for Kids that provides tutoring in science and math to children from grades six to eleven.

What do you think of Miss USA’s decision to rock her natural curls? Sound off below!

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