Chhavi Verg
Chhavi Verg was only seconds away from being crowned Miss USA 2017, but social media still fancied her as the contest’s real winner.

LAS VEGAS (Diya TV) — Chhavi Verg, Miss New Jersey USA, nearly made history by capturing the Miss USA crown on Sunday, but for the second-consecutive year, the sash was awarded to the entrant from the District of Columbia.

The 20-year-old Verg of Edison, N.J., who in October became the second Indian-American Miss New Jersey USA, emerged as first runner-up to Miss USA, Kara McCullough. Some critics have said that given their answers to questions during the competition final, Verg should have won.

Verg, wearing a sparkly black dress, stood alongside McCullough and Miss Minnesota, Meredith Gould, who was second runner-up, as the winner was announced. On social media Sunday night, viewers appeared to be pulling for Miss New Jersey to take the title, especially after McCullough, who majored in chemistry at South Carolina State University and works as a scientist at the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, referred to healthcare as a privilege, not a right.

“I’m definitely going to say it’s a privilege,” said McCullough, 25. “As a government employee, I am granted health care and I see firsthand that for one to have health care you need to have jobs, so therefore we need to cultivate this environment that we’re given the opportunity to have health care as well as jobs to all the American citizens worldwide.”

When asked if she considers herself a feminist, McCullough said she doesn’t like to use the word.

“I don’t want to call myself a feminist,” she said. “Women, we are just as equal as men, especially in the workplace.”

Twitter reacted critically to both responses:

On the flip side, Verg drew praise for her answer when she was asked if she considers herself a feminist:

“Feminism is striving for equality and I do consider myself a feminist. I think it’s a misconception when people believe that feminism is women being better than men. But it’s really not. It’s a fight for equality. And we need to realize that if we want a stable society, a better future for every single individual, we need to be equal. And that’s why I advocate for education for women, because women are still held back in places of the world. They still don’t have that right to their independence, that right to their equality, all because of education. And once we do take that step, I believe that an equal world will be a better world.”

Verg, who is studying marketing and Spanish at Rutgers University, competed against 50 other women in the pageant, which until 2015 was owned by President Donald Trump. She was born in India and moved to the United States when she was 4. Verg is a certified personal trainer who says she’s dedicated to health and “female empowerment through education.”