The 18-year-old freshman at the University of Puget Sound takes over the crown from last year’s winner Kaliegh Garris to become the second entrant from Hawaii to have won the competition.
Hawaii native Ki’ilani Arruda is the new Miss Teen USA. The 18-year-old beauty pageant queen was crowned as the winner this year on a Saturday, November 7 ceremony after the competition was postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Ki’ilani beat out 50 other contestants to claim the title, which was handed over by her predecessor, Miss Teen USA 2019 Kaliegh Garris. Miss Oregon Shayla Montgomery was the first runner-up, while Miss Georgia Shayla Jackson finished in the third place.
Ki’ilani is only the second entrant from Hawaii to have been crowned Miss Teen USA, following Kelly Hu who won the competition in 1985. Ki’ilani, a self-described “island girl,” is studying molecular and cellular biology, and minoring in Spanish.
“Ki’ilani’s younger brother was diagnosed with Autism at the age of two. Because of her experience as a loving older sister, she wants to advocate for Autism Awareness and recently received her Registered Behavior Technician License,” according to the Miss Hawaii USA website. A biography supplied by the Miss Universe Organization additionally states that she hopes to become a dermatologist.
Hours prior to her Miss Teen USA victory, Ki’ilani declared “confidently beautiful” in an Instagram video as she took a look back at her journey in the competition. “Feeling nothing but BLESSED as I look back at the Miss Teen USA 2020 preliminary competition I would like to thank everyone who has supported me for making this magical moment happen!” she wrote in the caption. “I am so appreciative of my whole ‘ohana of Hawai’i for giving me this opportunity, I hope I made you proud tonight.”
The Miss Teen USA 2020 pageant, which was initially planned for spring of this year, aired live on Saturday from Elvis Presley‘s Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee with strict COVID-19 protocols. The show went in front of a live studio audience with a “significantly reduced” capacity.
A spokesperson previously said “we are planning for all staff, contestants and crew to be tested before leaving for Memphis, and tested again when they arrive on site.” The spokesperson explained, “We will also be conducting health screenings before every event, social distancing as much as possible and using working groups to keep the number of interactions low, all under the guidance of medical professionals.”