Maybe it’s the New York air, or maybe it’s just the New York “grit.”
The crown went to NYC Sunday night when Nia Imani Franklin won the Miss America pageant’s coveted title for 2019. The 25-year-old became the seventh winner to represent the state in the pageant’s history (the first being Bess Myerson who won the honor 1945), and the fourth since 2014.
Franklin, a Brooklyn resident, was quick to rep the city during Sunday’s ceremony in Atlantic City, New Jersey, saying, “I have New York grit. As a New Yorker, I understand what it means to work hard.”
As the winner, and the recipient of a $50,000 scholarship, she’s held the title of Miss New York since January, but quickly became a buzzy name overnight.
So, who is the woman who’ll represent the competition for the next year as it embarks in its Time’s Up existence (sans swimsuit competition)?
She’s Brooklyn proud, but not a native.
Franklin was born in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and stayed in the state through college. After earning her undergraduate degree in composition at East Carolina University, she attended the University of North Carolina’s School of the Arts for her master’s degree, according to a campus blog post, and received a degree in composition from the School of Music in 2017. She was awarded a Kenan Fellowship at New York’s Lincoln Center Education and moved to the city. In New York, she’s worked with Success Academy Charters Schools and remains a member of the Sing for Hope nonprofit.
She turned to pageants to pay her way through school.
Her father was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma while she was in her freshman year of college at East Carolina University. Franklin said it was her father’s diagnosis that led her toward beauty pageants.
“I really believe in this organization (Miss America). I have for a long time now,” Franklin said at the Miss America pageant. “When my father was diagnosed with cancer, I had to find a way to pay for myself to go to school and so I entered this competition and this organization and it became much more than just the scholarship money for me, while that was very nice, it was also about the mentorship, leadership and sisterhood you find in this program. If we continue to focus on those positives that’s what’s going to keep this organization up and running and keep this organization around another 100 years.”
In 2013, Franklin underwent a procedure to donate stem cells to her father. “My dad received his stem cell transplant on May 1, 2013, and he is alive and thriving, all to the glory of God and his awesome team at Duke Medical” Franklin wrote on Instagram in August alongside a photo of herself in a hospital bed.
She dominated the NYC pageant scene.
She was crowned Miss Five Boroughs at the age of 23 and went on to win Miss New York 2018. Before being crowned Miss New York, she founded a music group at Manhattan’s Success Academy and chose the charitable path of backing music programs in public schools in New York.
She’s an opera singer, who wrote her first song at age five.
Franklin says she’s written over 100 songs herself, including one she began performing at age five. (The lyrics began as follows: “Love, love, love, love, love is the only thing that matters to me”). Opera is her go-to for the talent portion of her pageants. In 2018 she performed “Quando m’en Vo’’ from Puccini’s “La Boheme” during the Miss New York title competition, according to the Staten Island Advance.