MUKSEGON, MI – Vivian Zhong entered the competition with an open mind and left with the crown.
Zhong, 24, of Northville, was crowned Miss Michigan 2021 at the scholarship contest on Saturday, June 19 at the Frauenthal Center in downtown Muskegon.
“This is my fifth time coming to Miss Michigan, and I’m just knocked out,” Zhong said during an interview with MLive immediately after winning the title. “I am so grateful to have competed with all these incredible 21 other women, and I am so excited to represent Michigan this year.”
Miss Michigan 2019 Mallory Rivard crowned Zhong after serving the role for two years due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Zhong earned the title, a $10,000 academic scholarship and the opportunity to participate in the Miss America 2021 program in December.
“I was just having fun in the competition and being my true self,” she said.
See also: Vivian Zhong crowned Miss Michigan 2021
As Miss Michigan, Zhong plans to advocate for her “Golden Warriors: Fight Like a Kid” social impact initiative. She also won the preliminary talent award of $500 and the award for excellence in interviews worth $500.
“I want to raise awareness of the need for pediatric cancer research and provide support to all pediatric cancer patients and survivors in Michigan,” she said.
Zhong plans to raise money for cancer research and to advocate for children diagnosed with cancer, a cause close to her heart.
At the age of seven, Zhong witnessed how a close friend survived her cancer treatment, but eventually died due to complications.
“I honor her with my social impact initiative. I work hard every day to honor her and make sure there is a cure that really has no complications,” she said.
A graduate of the University of Michigan, Zhong was recently accepted into medical school to pursue a career as a pediatric oncologist.
Related: Guide to Miss Michigan 2021, featuring the 22 candidates
Zhong stole the show and impressed the audience during the two-day Miss Michigan competition. She and the 21 other candidates competed in a private interview, a question on stage, evening wear, a statement about social impact and talent.
For her talent, Zhong wore a red floor-length dress and played a classical piano solo from Frederic Chopin’s ‘Fantaisie Impromptu Opus 66’.
Zhong, a crowd favorite, previously won preliminary talent awards for her piano skills in 2017 and 2019.
During the final on Saturday, the top 11 candidates were asked current questions. A judge asked Zhong if she agreed that Juneteenth, a day to commemorate the end of slavery, should be a federal holiday.
“I do believe it’s time we made this a federal holiday. I’m really glad that happened,” she said. “It’s something we need to learn from. It’s part of our American history and we need to move forward.”
After the top five candidates were named, they shared their social platform with the public.
“Every year in the United States alone, more than 15,000 children are diagnosed with childhood cancer. Those lucky enough to survive have a 90% chance of chronic, lifelong side effects,” said Zhong, wearing a black velvet ball gown and glitter earrings.
“The need for research is urgent, but childhood cancer receives only 4% of the annual budget of the National Institute of Health. As a future pediatric oncologist and Miss Michigan, I will continue to raise private funds for research across this country because these children deserve better,” she continued.
Related: See All the Talents, Top Photos From Miss Michigan 2021 Opening Night
Candidates were then asked another question related to their platform.
Zhong answered which single cancer organization she would continue to volunteer with and why. She said the one closest to her heart is the American Childhood Cancer Organization.
During the preliminary rounds, judges interviewed Zhong why cancer still cannot be cured, even if the research is well funded by donations.
“A lot of the dollars that go into cancer research goes specifically toward adult cancer research,” she said. “I advocate for childhood cancer research and already have many connections with state organizations and national organizations to spread the word.”
Miss Michigan 2008 Ashlee Baracy-Kunkel was the master of ceremonies during the contest. Barracy-Kunkel was Miss Michigan 2008 and a top 10 contender for Miss America 2009.
This year’s judges were Tyler Patton, Brooke Allen-Burnstein, Bob Scolnik, Jill Ojserkis and Phillip DeYoung.
Miss Michigan’s Outstanding Teen 2021 was crowned Friday night. Rylie Dewley, 17 of the Grand Blanc, earned the title with a dazzling talent performance, fitness routine and answering a question on stage in evening wear.
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