Chhavi Verg, Miss New Jersey USA, nearly won the 2017 Miss USA competition Sunday in Las Vegas. But for the second year in a row, the crown and sash ended up going to Miss District of Columbia.
Verg, 20, of Edison, who in October became the second Indian-American Miss New Jersey USA, emerged as first runner-up to Miss USA, Kara McCullough. And some say that given their answers to questions during the competition final, Jersey should have won.
Verg, wearing a sparkly black dress, stood alongside McCullough and Miss Minnesota, Meridith Gould, who was second runner-up, as the winner was announced. On Twitter, many seemed to be pulling for Miss New Jersey to take the title, especially after McCullough, who majored in chemistry at South Carolina State University and works as a scientist at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, referred to healthcare as a privilege, not a right (she was asked if it was a privilege or a right and why).
In the final round, the top three contestants were asked, “What do you consider feminism to be?”
“As a woman scientist in the government, I’d like to transpose the word feminism to equalism … Women are just as equal as men as it comes to opportunity in the workplace. I have witnessed the impact women have in leadership as in the medical sciences as well as the office environment. As Miss USA I would like to promote that leadership responsibility globally to women worldwide.”
On the other hand, Verg drew praise for her answer when she was asked if she considers herself a feminist:
“Feminism is striving for equality and I do consider myself a feminist. I think it’s a misconception when people believe that feminism is women being better than men. But it’s really not. It’s a fight for equality. And we need to realize that if we want a stable society, a better future for every single individual, we need to be equal. And that’s why I advocate for education for women, because women are still held back in places of the world. They still don’t have that right to their independence, that right to their equality, all because of education. And once we do take that step, I believe that an equal world will be a better world.”
Verg, who is studying marketing and Spanish at Rutgers University, competed against 50 other women in the pageant, which until 2015 was owned by Donald Trump (it’s now owned by William Morris Endeavor). She was born in India and moved to the United States when she was 4. Verg is a certified personal trainer who says she’s dedicated to health and “female empowerment through education.”
Last year, Deshauna Barber, then Miss District of Columbia, became the first contestant actively serving in the military to win Miss USA.