The Miss USA pageant has come a long way in recent years, with its competitors — and winners — showing more diversity than ever before. Last year, one of the semifinalists wore a burkini in the swimsuit competition (the first ever to do so), and the winner was not only a woman of color but an officer in the Army Reserve. This year another woman of color won, and she’s making waves for the way she wore her hair: naturally.

Miss USA 2017, AKA Italian-born radiochemist Kára McCullough, explained her struggles with the decision to wear her hair curly for the pageant’s final night. “When I choose to wear my hair curly, I was afraid,” she told Refinery29 . “I didn’t know if people were going to accept it… if anyone was going to be receptive to it at all.”

In the end, Miss District of Columbia went with what felt right. “I decided to embrace what makes me feel comfortable and what makes me feel the best and brightest on stage, but also embrace what other people can relate to,” McCullough said. “That typical, traditional sleek hair with a big tease, not to say it’s gone out the window, but it’s transitioning a lot.”

The reaction to her choice reinforced it was the right decision. Fans took to her Instagram account to leave comments including, “Am so happy she won, she beautiful” and, regarding her crowning moment, “Omg… two natural hair queens on stage at once. This gives me so much hope. Congratulations Miss DC. Thanks to both queens for being so brave and embracing their curls up there. It inspires me.”

What do you think of McCullough’s choice to wear her hair naturally? Tell us @BritandCo!

(h/t Refinery29; photos via Ethan Miller/Getty)