After an otherwise scandal-free evening, Miss D.C. Kára McCullough was crowned Miss USA on Sunday night, sparking controversy and making waves across social media. Earlier in the evening, McCullough was criticized heavily by at-home viewers who felt that her answers to two separate questions were either misguided or unbefitting of a Miss USA winner. And given the stiff competition, the decision to ultimately crown her was unsurprisingly met with plenty of ruffled feathers.
McCullough, who was born in Naples, Italy, but raised in Virginia Beach, Virginia, according to her official Miss USA bio, found her footing early in the night, drawing praise on Twitter from those who appreciated her efforts with children in the STEM fields (McCullough herself works as a physical scientist for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission) and her confidence in the buzzed-about evening gown competition. It was during her two interview questions later, however, that McCullough ran into trouble — at least with viewers.
When the eventual winner was asked by host Julianne Hough whether she believed health care was a right or a privilege, McCullough stated,
I'm definitely going to say it's a privilege. As a government employee, I am granted health care. And I see firsthand that, for one, to have health care, you need to have jobs. So therefore, we need to continue to cultivate this environment that we're given the opportunity to have health care as well as jobs for all the American citizens worldwide.
A short while later, in the final round of questions, host Terrence J asked McCullough what she considered feminism to be in modern society, and whether she herself was a feminist. McCullough answered,
So, as a woman scientist in the government, I'd like to maybe transpose the word feminism to "equalism." I don't really wanna consider myself... I try not to consider myself, like this... like diehard, you know, like "aww, I don't really care about men." But one thing I'm going to say is that, women, we are just as equal as men when it comes to opportunity in the workplace. And I say firsthand, I've witnessed the impact that women have in leadership and the medical sciences, as well as in just the office environment. So as Miss USA, I would hope to promote that type of leadership responsibility globally, to so many women worldwide.
Needless to say, female viewers across social media were unimpressed by both answers (though to be fair, McCullough was praised by some who believed she represented a tough, conservative voice that might otherwise be drowned out by more "liberal" stances). "What's wrong with being a feminist, Miss D.C. USA?" one user tweeted. "Who says feminists hate men? Gurl!!!" Another tweeted, "DC just lost my vote. Healthcare shouldn't be a privilege for only people with jobs."
"What. Noooooo. This is the first #MissUSA I don't approve of," tweeted one blogger. "Her answers showed she is uneducated on women's & health care issues."
Another Twitter user who had previously supported the competitor summed up her frustration succinctly. "Dang I wanted Miss D.C. to win but I'm sorry affordable health care is not a privilege," she wrote. "Health care should be a human right!"
Despite the controversy, McCullough — who "earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry with a concentration in Radiochemistry from South Carolina State University," according to her bio, and who hopes to inspire kids to work in the STEM fields — eventually walked away with the crown and the 2017 Miss USA title. For the next year, she'll spend her time in a luxury New York City apartment, will make special appearances around the globe, and will represent the United States in the Miss Universe competition. Here's hoping she'll encounter a bit less controversy then.