Girl Becomes First African-American To Win Spelling Bee | 22 Words

Fourteen-year-old Zaila Avant-garde won the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee on Thursday night, making her the first African-American winner in its century-long history!

Thanks to her spelling prowess, along with her new championship title, Zaila will take $50,000 back home to Louisiana.

Before her big win, Jamaican Jody-Anne Maxwell entered the history books by becoming the first black winner back in 1998.

Zalia was clearly mindful of the incredible moment.

As per the Daily Mail, she said: "I'm hoping that within the next few years, I can see a little bit of an influx of African Americans, and not many Hispanic people, either, so I'm hoping to see them there, too."

But Zalia has many more talents up her sleeve...

She earned herself not 1, but 3 Guinness world records for being able to dribble multiple basketballs at once. Zaila completed 255 "bounce juggles" with 4 basketballs in just 1 minute.

She hopes to put her impressive skills to work at Harvard and go on to play for the WNBA. But she does have a backup plan if that doesn't work out... aiming to put her brilliance to work at NASA.

Zaila won after spelling the word "Murraya" which is a genus of tropical Asiatic and Australian trees.

She soared to victory ahead of Chaitra Thummala who spelled "nereli oil" instead of "neroli oil," which is a pale yellow essential oil made from orange flowers.

The final challenges saw the youngster spell words such as "retene," "crystalline hydrocarbon" or "fidibus," and she didn't even break a sweat.

The only word that seemed to catch her slightly was "nepeta," a genus of plants.

Zaila was thrilled to get it right: "I've always struggled with that word. I've heard it a lot of times. I don't know, there are just some words, for a speller, I just get them and I can't get them right."

"I even knew it was a genus of plants. I know what you are and I can't get you," she added.

Despite her starting only 2 years ago, Zaila properly prepared for the competition by studying a whopping 7 hours a day.

Last year's Spelling Bee was scratched due to COVID-19, the first time since World War 2.

The competition was virtual up until the last few rounds, where the top eleven spellers competed in-person with only relatives allowed to accompany them.

However, there was one exception, First Lady Jill Biden could be seen cheering on Zaila in the crowd.

According to the Daily Mail, she said: "In sixth grade, I was my school's spelling bee champion. I had a chance to go to the next level, but on the day of the regional competition, I told my mother that I was sick. The truth was that I was too nervous to go, so I have incredible admiration for each and every one of you."

Congratulations, Zaila!