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Miss Teen USA winner competed with her natural hair and fans are emotional

18-year-old Kaleigh Garris from Connecticut won the competition while wearing her hair in a naturally curly afro.
Credit: Miss Universe Organization
Kaliegh Garris, Miss Connecticut TEEN USA 2019, is crowned the new Miss Teen USA at the conclusion of the special programming event from Grand Sierra Resort and Casino’s (GSR) Grand Theatre on Sunday, April 28. The new winner will become a spokesperson for various causes alongside The Miss Universe Organization. HO/The Miss Universe Organization

A new Miss Teen USA was crowned Sunday. 18-year-old Kaleigh Garris from Connecticut won the title, beating runner up Kaitlin Vogel from North Dakota. 

Garris, who is a black woman, wore her hair in a naturally curly afro. She's a senior at Joseph A Foran High School and hopes to one day become a trauma nurse. 

Many of her fans expressed admiration for Garris for competing in her natural curls. In 2017, miss USA winner Kara McCullough was also lauded for competing with her natural hair. 

“When I choose to wear my hair curly, I was afraid," McCullough told Refinery29.  "I didn’t know if people were going to accept it…if anyone was going to be receptive to it at all.” 

"I decided to embrace what makes me feel comfortable and what makes me feel the best and brightest on stage, but also embrace what other people can relate to."

"Representation matters!" one Twitter user said when Garris was crowned Miss Teen USA. 

In February, New York City unveiled new legal guidance to protect against discrimination due to hairstyle. 

"Hair is a part of you. Race discrimination based on hair is illegal in NYC," Human Rights Commission Chairwoman Carmelyn P. Malalis said in a Tweet.

The guidance enabled people to seek fines and other remedies if they've been harassed or punished in workplaces, schools and other public spaces because of their hair style. The protections were meant to target the "racist stereotypes that black hairstyles are unprofessional," according to the Human Rights Commission.