Zaila Avantgarde, a 14 year-old girl from New Orleans, Louisiana won the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee. She became the first African American contestant in the competition’s 93 editions.
Jody-Anne Maxwell represented Jamaica in 1998 and was the only Black winner.
To win the championship, Zaila won by correctly spelling murraya (a type of tree). The teen had difficulty spelling words such as “querimonious”, “solidungulate,” or “Nepeta” to get there. She had to make a happy jump when she found the correct spelling.
Zaila will be awarded a $50,000 cash prize.
Thursday night’s victory is only one of many achievements for the champion.
She has a large following on Instagram and has shared her triumphant journey to the national spelling bee. She also posted videos of herself playing basketball to impress her followers.
Zaila won the spelling bee crown and was also the Guinness World Records holder for most bounce-juggles per minute.
A video uploaded to the Guinness World Records Twitter account shows that Zaila began dribbling at the age of five years old. She hopes to one day be a professional basketball player and joins the WNBA.
She said that she believed that the greater the visibility of the successes and triumphs achieved by women, the more girls around the globe will be inspired to do anything they set their minds to,” she stated in the video.
The National Spelling Bee competition opened with 209 contestants, aged 9-15 years, representing five countries: the USA, Canada, Ghana, Japan, Canada, Ghana, and Canada. On Thursday night, 11 contestants were in the final.
First lady Dr. Jill Biden was on hand to cheer on the competitors at ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Walt Disney World Resort in Florida.