Nia Franklin won the 2019 Miss America crown. But the opera singer and composer from Winston-Salem, N.C. is more than just a beauty queen. Franklin has composed more than 100 works and is a mentor, teacher and advocate for the arts. She has performed with the New York Philharmonic and the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and she is the founder of Compose Her, which nurtures women and girls in classical composition and musicianship.
“When I’m listening to music, I feel exhilarated,” Franklin told In The Know.
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To snag the Miss America crown, she performed “Quando m’en vo” from Puccini’s opera, La bohéme, in the talent portion of the finals. The moment challenged not only what people think about women in pageants but also how they see Black women.
“People do have preconceived notions about women who are in the pageant world, but if anything, I found that people are surprised,” Franklin said. “People are saying this is an inspiration to them, that they never knew they could do this either. I’ve seen a lot of Black women say that in the comments.”
“It’s really great that they’re seeing that representation, so it should be celebrated,” she said. “We need to make sure people are seeing these images of Black people doing these things that historically we weren’t even allowed to do.”