Continuing the year of surprise conclusions during live TV events, Miss North Dakota Cara Mund won the Miss America pageant Sunday night, the first time in the show’s nearly 100-year history that the state has claimed the prize.
Mund, a 23-year-old Brown University graduate whose dream is to be the first female governor of North Dakota, reminded the audience about her state’s lack of pageant victories. By the time she advanced to the Q&A portion and was asked about the No. 1 item on her bucket list, Mund reiterated it once again.
“Honestly? It was to get to Miss America and make it past the Top 10,” Mund said. “We’ve only had three girls [from North Dakota] ever make it this far. And so it just proves that it doesn’t matter where you come from geographically — if you have the ability to do it and you dream it, you can do it.”
Mund is now the recipient of a $50,000 scholarship — she has been accepted to Notre Dame for law school, but plans to defer a year — and a six-figure salary during her Miss America reign. She takes over for last year’s winner, Miss Arkansas Savvy Shields.
While Mund may have been under the radar compared to other frontrunners, she was a finalist for a community service award in the preliminary competitions, taking place in Atlantic City in the days leading up to the pageant. She also impressed the judges during swimsuit and evening gown segments on Sunday night, as well as the talent competition, where she performed a jazz routine.
She also had no problems during the second round of the Q&A, in which the contestants have 20 seconds to formulate an eloquent response to an absurdly complex question. Judge Maria Menounos asked Mund: “195 countries signed the Paris agreement, in which each country sets non-binding goals to reduce man-made climate change. The U.S. is withdrawing from the agreement, citing negligible environmental effects and negative economic impact. Good decision? Bad decision? Which is it and why?”
“I do believe it’s a bad decision,” Mund said immediately, earning big cheers from the crowd. “Once we reject that, we take ourselves out of the negotiation table. And that’s something that we really need to keep in mind. There is evidence that climate change is existing, so whether you believe it or not, we need to be at that table. And I think it’s just a bad decision on behalf of the United States.”
A few minutes later, she was crowned the winner, defeating the runner-up, Miss Missouri Jennifer Davis; second runner-up, Miss New Jersey Kaitlyn Schoeffel; third runner-up, Miss D.C. Briana Kinsey; and fourth runner-up, Miss Texas Margana Wood.