How do you spell “most interesting teenager in America?” Zaila Avant-garde!!!
Zaila entered the history books Thursday by winning the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee, becoming the first Africa-American champion. The 14-year-old also became the first winner from the state of Louisiana.
The teen took home the title after she correctly spelled “murraya” — a type of tree — but not before she joked that the word contained the last name of a comedian … to the delight of Bill Murray fans everywhere.
Along her way to becoming the first Black American to win in 93 editions of the competition, Zaila also had to spell words like “querimonious,” “solidungulate,” and “Nepeta.” The only other Black winner was Jamaica’s Jody-Anne Maxwell in 1998.
There’s much more to Avant-garde than her spelling though … which she only began doing competitively 2 years ago. She’s also a gifted basketball player who holds 3 Guinness world records for dribbling skills … and even her last name is special. Her father changed it from Heard to Avant-garde in homage to the jazz legend, John Coltrane.
With her win, Zaila took home $50,000 and wowed folks like First Lady Jill Biden who attended the event.
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