With Avant-garde’s win, the streak of at least one Indian American champion every year since 2008 is broken. On Friday the teen shared that after practicing for two years and studying about 13,000 words, “it felt really good to be a winner.” Avant-garde finished tied for 370th place in the 2019 competition; as the winner of the 2021 bee, she is not only the first African American but the first winner from the state of Louisiana.
“I’m hoping that in a few years I’ll see a whole lot more African American females, and males too, doing well in the Scripps Spelling Bee,” Avant-garde told ABC’s Good Morning America. “You don’t really see too many African Americans doing too well in spelling bees and that’s a bit sad, because it’s a really good thing … and kind of is a gate-opener to be interested in education.”
Not only is Avant-garde a great speller, but she’s also an accomplished basketball player. According to ESPN, Avant-garde holds at least three basketball-related Guinness world records, and hopes to one day play in the WNBA or even coach in the NBA.
“I kind of thought I would never be into spelling again, but I’m also happy that I’m going to make a clean break from it,” Avant-garde said. “I can go out, like my Guinness world records, just leave it right there and walk off.”
One more time for the people in the back— she’s a baller.
Avant-garde’s talents seem to be endless. In 2018, she appeared in a commercial with NBA star Stephen Curry—but it doesn’t end there. According to The New York Times, the multitalented talented teen also learned how to divide five-digit numbers by two-digit numbers in her head, a skill she told the outlet she has a hard time explaining.
“It’s like asking a millipede how they walk with all those legs,” Avant-garde said.
When asked on NBC’s Today show what she was going to do with her $50,000 prize, Avant-garde recalled the time she won $10,000 from another spelling bee and how she had said then she would stick the money under the floorboards “for security.”
“But $50,000, that would be a lot of dollars,” she said, “and I don’t think my floorboards could fit it.”
Whatever she decides to do with the money, her win is historical and clearly well-deserved.
Watch the moment Avant-garde wins, and the pure joy and emotion that followed in the video below:
Don’t forget to Google ‘Zaila Avant-garde’ or ‘Murraya’ and join the party yourself!