After a night full of anticipation, the time finally came to crown the new Miss America on the Sept. 10 ABC broadcast of the finals. Rising to the top of the pack throughout the night, the judges crowned Miss North Dakota Cara Mund Miss America 2018. She's the first winner to hail from that state.
Congratulations are definitely in order! After competing against 51 contestants from across the country, Mund took home the prestigious honor during the annual pageant that took place in Atlantic City, New Jersey with Chris Harrison and Sage Steele sharing the master of ceremonies duties.
Aside from the preliminary rounds, Miss North Dakota went through two hours and five different competitions, which consisted of swimwear, evening gowns, a talent show, and not one, but two question and answer sessions. The first question was a "lighter" question to add some humor to the pageant and the second round of questions were more serious in nature.
After strutting her stuff during the swimsuit round, Mund moved onto the talent portion of the competition, where she performed a jazz routine to the classic Michael Jackson jam "The Way You Make Me Feel." Of course she aced it. She's a pro at this point. Cara recently posted an adorable throwback photo from her early days as dancer on her Instagram and wrote, "I've been dancing my way through life since 1996! The next stage I'll dance on is the #MissAmerica stage."
Aside from her love for dance, another passion of Cara's is working with the Make a Wish organization. On Instagram, she encouraged her followers to "get involved with @makeawishamerica by contacting your local chapter!" In the same post, she also wrote, "Make-A-Wish children are often @cmnhospitals children! Through the #MissAmerica Organization, I make both miracles happen and wishes come true! #MissNorthDakota#wishescometrue#miracleshappen"
Cara also shared a sweet photo at the preschool graduation with a Wish Child.
During the competition, her first question was presented by judge and country singer Thomas Rhett asked, "How are you doing?" and even joked, "That wasn't the question." Nevertheless, Mund was happy to be at the next stage and enthusiastically responded with, "I'm great. I'm so excited." For the actual question, the artist asked her "What's the number one thing on your bucket list?"
She admitted her goal was to "get to Miss America and make the top 10. We've only ever had three girls ever make it this far." She added, "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. That was exactly what was on my bucket list and you made it come through. Thank you!"
In the final section, Mund was asked a tougher query. Judge Maria Menounos read:
"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?"
Miss North Dakota answered:
"I do believe that it is a bad decision. Once we reject that, we take ourselves out of the negotiation table and that is 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."
After that last trial, it was the moment of truth. The 2017 winner Miss Savvy Shields was in the house during the finals to pass down the honor after a long night of competition from many worthy women. It came down to North Dakota and Miss Missouri Jennifer Davis. It was a tough race for first place, but Mund prevailed throughout the night's various competitions and she did way more than check off an item on her bucket list.
She made everyone from her home state of North Dakota proud with her big win and gracious attitude. In addition to taking home the crown and the glory of the win, the new Miss America 2018 also receives a $50,000 scholarship and a six-figure salary for embarking on a year of service.