ATLANTIC CITY — The new Miss America stepped out into a sparkling Atlantic Ocean Monday morning on her first day beneath the crown.
Savvy Shields, 21, who competed as Miss Arkansas, danced her way to a win with her jazz performance in Sunday night’s final competition. She tackled an open-ended political question on stage about Democrat Hillary Clinton, saying both presidential candidates need to make an effort to be careful with their speech.
Like many Miss Americas before her, Shields received the first taste of her new job as she literally tested the water. She was surrounded by friends, her parents and a crowd of media in the traditional toe dip, calling the experience “iconic.”
“This means so much to me,” she said.
Mayor Don Guardian introduced Shields and explained the link she will have to Atlantic City.
Playing on their names, he said, “With a Shield and a Guardian, Atlantic City will be safe for another year.”
Speaking of names, Shields’ parents, Todd and Karen, said most people — including some of her friends — don’t know the name Savvy comes from Savannah (even though Shields’ hometown is Fayetteville, Arkansas).
Shields gave her first thoughts on taking home the crown Sunday night in a press conference.
“Pageants as a whole have taught me about my insecurities and limitations. I entered pageants seeking validation. But in being pushed outside my comfort zone, I realized my insecurities aren’t truths, and that’s not who I really am,” Shields said.
Shields said one of the most challenging parts of the competition is maintaining the strength it takes to stay confident.
“Pageants are a mental game. You have to have a lot of mental toughness to compete in pageants, especially in this society of comparison,” she said. “You’re comparing yourself to the girl in front of you or the girl behind you, but you really have to find who you are.”
Shields said she hopes her platform, “Eat Better, Live Better,” will allow her to teach those who look up to her about healthy lifestyles.
“Whether that’s living by example or teaching people tangible ways to eat healthy, I’m excited to do it. Hopefully I can spread the message as much as I can.”
Shields thanked her parents soon after the crowning, saying her mother always reminded her to keep her eyes on the prize.
“She’s the one who, on the days I didn’t really want to run and I didn’t really want to work on interview questions, reminded me of my goals,” said Shields.
The celebrity judges took turns explaining their pick and introducing the new titleholder as someone who will truly be a positive influence on young fans.
“Keep that humble thing you’ve got going on because it’s awesome,” said singer Ciara.
Sam Haskell, the Miss America Organization’s executive chairman and chief executive officer, said Shields is the epitome of what the organization represents.
“I couldn’t be prouder,” he said of Shields.
Shields was additionally awarded a $50,000 scholarship, a 6-figure salary and an appearance contract with dick clark productions.
Shields said being in Atlantic City meant spending time around some of the competition’s most loyal fans.
“It’s been so much fun, the people of Atlantic City have been so so sweet,” Shields said. “Every person that sees us is so excited, and it makes us feel on top of the world.”