TeKema Balentine of Madison, Wisconsin, took home this year’s Miss Black USA crown.

WKOW reports Balentine won the competition on Sunday in Washington D.C. She defeated 49 other contestants for more than $500,000 in scholarship money. Balentine said she will use the money to pay for nursing school.

The newly crowned queen’s journey through the pageant system wasn’t easy. According to a Facebook post written by Boy and Girls Club of Dane County President and CEO Michael Johnson, Balentine was prepared to make major sacrifices to enter the Miss Black USA competition.

“A week ago she was prepared to sleep in her car and did not have enough money to attend and struggled to get there,” he wrote. “Because of her perseverance she now holds the national title because many of you believed in her!!”

Balentine also made a GoFundMe account to offset the pageant costs. Her interests in pageants started during her childhood, but prior to Miss Black USA, she didn’t have much experience. Balentine completed part of the National American Miss pageant when she was 12 years old, but her family couldn’t afford the rest. She admitted she was unprepared for the process of entering Miss Black USA.

“I kind of figured it’d be like put in an application, I’ll find a couple sponsors and it would be fine. But there’s a lot of digging to do and research,” Balentine told The Cap Times in April.

She started to use unconventional methods to train for the pageant. Balentine studied the mannerisms of Miss Black America and Miss Black USA champions to see who was successful and who got the chop. She took ballet to make sure she was poised.

“I’m not like a seasoned pageant person … I work in health care and I coach kids. That’s what I do,” she said.

The Miss Black USA pageant stood out to Balentine because it embraced the uniqueness of Black style, which is great for someone who can’t “style hair to save my life.”

The future nurse plans to be a role model for Black children who aren’t used to seeing successful people who look like them. Balentine used to be one of those kids.

“For kids who are having troubles at home, they don’t know how to go to what they assume is a clean-cut white person who doesn’t understand. Even though that may not be the case at all,” she said. “I feel like if we have people that look more like them, they're more likely to trust.”