Update (May 8, 2019): Kaliegh Garris appeared on CBS This Morning to discuss winning the coveted 2019 Miss Teen USA crown. During the show she shared her response to the public’s reaction about her crowning characteristic, her natural hair.

Garris joined 2019’s Miss USA Cheslie Kryst and Miss America Nia Franklin on Tuesday to discuss the historical honor of having three Black women win the titles in each respective contest at the same time for the first time, as Blavity reported.

Garris, who made headlines for sporting her natural curly coils, spoke with CBS This Morning about how that decision came about. “Growing up in pageantry, I would straighten my hair,” the 18-year-old admitted. “I looked up to my mom a lot and she had straight blonde hair. I really wanted to embody the same characteristics and I thought I had to do that physically. But as I grew up, I realized I can do that while being myself and still be powerful.”

“So over time I just embraced who I was,” she continued. “In pageantry they tell you just to be yourself because the judges are just looking for your self-confidence. I did that by wearing my natural hair.

The three ladies were supportive of each other’s crowns and respective journeys. They also shared their excitement with the hosts about their achievement.

"It's symbolic, I think, and it sends a message across the world really that you can be anything you want to be, and there doesn't have to be just one of us at a time up here," said Franklin, 25, an arts advocate with a masters in music composition. "It can be all. And I think it showcases diversity as well.

As Blavity reported, Kryst, 28, made headlines for being a powerful pro bono lawyer and activist. During the show, she revealed that she’s also Franklin’s attorney and the two North Carolina natives have long been friends.

Garris, the youngest of the two, said that the new attention is taking her by surprise.

"I’m a teenager, I have all of these influencers that I look up to on social media and now I’m getting messages from moms of biracial kids and kids themselves that are biracial; girls that are scared to wear their hair naturally, saying that I had been a big influence in their lives and they’re just proud to be themselves… It fills my heart with joy.”

It just goes to show you how far being your most authentic self can take you.

Original: Kaliegh Garris, an 18-year-old woman from Connecticut, was crowned Miss Teen USA on Sunday, beating runner-up Miss North Dakota Kaitlyn Vogel. What made the victory even sweeter was that the teen sported her natural curls as she took home her crown.

Per the Miss Universe Organization, Garris is a student at Joseph A. Foran High School in Milford. However, the New Haven native is also enrolled at the Educational Center for the Arts as a theater major.

Garris also leads "We Are People 1st," an initiative she created to honor her older sister who has disabilities. The competitive dancer was also recently honored by the Department of Disabled Services for her contributions. 

A current volunteer at the Yale New Haven Hospital, Garris is set to enroll in Southern Connecticut State University’s nursing program to fulfill her career aspirations of becoming a trauma nurse, The New Haven Register reports.

Following her victory, Garris thanked her support system in a statement obtained by The New Haven Register.

"During the contest you know you have self-doubt because there are so many great people," she said. "I am just happy, proud, and grateful for the support system I have."

Go ‘head now, Miss Teen USA Kaliegh Garris!

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