ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — The new Miss America says there are more important things for people to worry about than her little red cup.
That was the message Monday from Kira Kazantsev, of New York, as some social media users panned her use of a plastic cup during the talent portion of Sunday night's pageant finale in Atlantic City.
Kazantsev told The Associated Press she realizes everything she does now will be scrutinized and commented on. But she says she performed Pharrell Williams' "Happy" while tapping a cup on the floor because that's what she wanted to do, regardless of what anyone else might think.
"There are so many more important issues in this world that people should be worried about than my plastic cup," she said Monday morning after taking the traditional dip in the Atlantic City surf the morning after winning the crown. "However, as Miss America, everything I do is scrutinized and I understand that. That's part of the job.
"I hope people understand that's just part of who I am, and I wanted to present myself that way I wanted to," she said.
Her pageant causes include eliminating sexual assaults in the military, and preventing domestic violence. The Hofstra University graduate plans to attend law school with the $50,000 scholarship she won in the pageant.
Kazantsev said her talent portion was inspired by the 2012 movie "Pitch Perfect," in which Anna Kendrick's character auditions for an a cappella group by performing rhythmically with a cup.
Bathed in midmorning sunshine Monday on the Atlantic City beach, Kazantsev filmed a number of video promos in which she asked fans to follower her on sites including Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.
Yet those sites continued to send forth disapproval from many users over her choice of material for the talent portion, with many users deriding it as lightweight and silly.
Some social media users were even more virulently critical of last year's winner, Nina Davuluri, the first Indian-American to win the crown, directing racist taunts at her.
Kazantsev is not particularly concerned with the online reaction to her own performance.
"It's unconventional; and sometimes people aren't as open to change as some would like," she said. "It's just something different and I hope people take it as a positive. If they can appreciate that and be happy with what I did, then that's all I can ask."
Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC