Saturday, January 22, 2022

Zaila Avant-garde Makes History as First Black American Winner of Scripps National Spelling Bee [VIDEO]

Zaila Avant-garde wins the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee

*A 4-year-old eighth-grader from Harvey, Louisiana has been crowned winner of the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee. 

Per PEOPLE, Zaila Avant-garde correctly spelled “Murraya” — a genus of flowering plants —and won Thursday night during the bee’s live finals from Florida.

Zaila is the first Black American student to be crowned the champion in the bee’s annual event. 

“I want to inspire everybody, especially African American girls” she told PEOPLE after her win. She previously competed in the bee in 2019 and she finished 370th.

READ MORE: Guinness World Record Holder, 13, Wins Kaplan Spelling Bee [VIDEO]

The teen is already thinking of her future, telling PEOPLE that she hopes to attend Harvard University “as a basketball player and student,” as she believes it’s “a good way to open doors to maybe being an NBA basketball coach” one day.

In addition to athletics, Zaila is also intrigued by science. 

“I like working with NASA and doing gene editing. I have a lot of different things I’m interested in,” Zaila adds.

Last year’s spelling bee competition was canceled due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our thoughts immediately go to our spellers and their families,” said Paige Kimble, executive director of the bee, in a statement at the time. “The students have dedicated time and effort to their passion for learning. They should be proud of all they have accomplished by winning spelling bees at the classroom, school and regional level.”

Added Kimble, “Nevertheless, our first priority has to be the health and well-being of our spellers and their families and the hundreds of staff and spectators that come together for Bee Week.”

Scripps announced the return of the bee earlier this year in a press release that stated, “The decision to limit the in-person portion of the competition to no more than 12 spellers was made in consideration of the health and safety of participants, their families and everyone involved in the event’s production as the country continues to combat the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The statement continued “The in-person portion of the competition … will follow protocols based on guidance from health authorities, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, for social distancing and masking.”

The 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee aired live on July 8 from Walt Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex on ESPN2 and ESPNU.

Ny MaGee
Ny MaGee is an entertainment reporter with over 15 years of experience working in the film industry in areas including production and post-production, marketing, distribution, and acquisitions. She has worked for legendary film producer Roger Corman, Quentin Tarantino's production team at Miramax, the late Larry Flynt, MTV/ VH1, Hallmark Channel, Paramount, Jim Henson Co., Parade Magazine, and various LA-based companies representing above-the-line talent.

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