Miss USA takes a stand atop the Empire State Building

NEW YORK, NEW YORK, UNITED STATES (MAY 16, 2017) (REUTERS) – Miss USA Kara McCullough celebrated her win atop New York City’s Empire State Building on Tuesday (May 16).

The 25-year-old scientist representing the District of Columbia was crowned winner of the Miss USA pageant on Sunday (May 14), the second consecutive year that the contestant from the nation’s capital won the annual competition.

For her question as one of three finalists, McCullough was asked about healthcare rights, and replied that affordable healthcare was a privilege for people who held jobs. The response drew some stinging criticism on social media platforms such as Twitter, but also had its defenders.

McCullough also took hits for saying she does not call herself a feminist, preferring “equalism,” before adding “Women, we are just as equal as men, especially in the workplace.”

On the 86th floor observation deck, McCullough clarified her statement regarding healthcare.

“For me, yes, I do feel privileged. It’s an honor. I’m grateful for it. I would never want to take advantage of it either. But I do believe it should be a right for people nationwide. People do need healthcare – and affordable healthcare at that. I just want people to understand where I was coming from. Yes, I have a job, and I have to be thankful for this opportunity to be given healthcare. So I feel very privileged.”

“Equalism. It goes hand in hand with feminism in the sense of just being active in your environment. You want to be sure that women are given the same rights. So when I think of equalism, I just want people to understand that I want everyone to be equal. I want women to also be accredited for all their accomplishments and work,” she added.

McCullough holds a degree in chemistry and works at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. She said during her reign as Miss USA, she will focus on exposing children to careers in science, technology, engineering and math.

“I’m all about STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) enrichment in children. So I’m going to help to expand my self-funded community outreach project called Science Exploration for Kids. I want to continue to just invest the greatness of science in children. So I want to visit schools, continue to possibly do some tutoring, as well as symposiums for high school students, so they can see the possibilities of where STEM education can take you in your career.”

McCullough will go on to compete as the U.S. representative at the annual Miss Universe pageant.