ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — The new Miss America says there are more important things for people to worry about than her little red cup.
That was the message Monday from Kira Kazantsev of New York as many social media users continued to pan her use of a plastic cup during the talent portion of Sunday night's pageant finale in Atlantic City.
Kazantsev tells The Associated Press she realizes everything she does now will be scrutinized and commented on. But she says she performed Pharrell Williams' "Happy" while tapping a cup on the floor because that's what she wanted to do, regardless of what anyone else might think.
"There are so many more important issues in this world that people should be worried about than my plastic cup," she told the AP Monday morning after taking the traditional dip in the Atlantic City surf the morning after winning the crown. "However, as Miss America, everything I do is scrutinized and I understand that. That's part of the job.
"I hope people understand that's just part of who I am, and I wanted to present myself that way I wanted to," she said.
Her pageant causes include eliminating sexual assaults in the military, and preventing domestic violence. The Hofstra University graduate plans to attend law school with the $50,000 scholarship she won in the pageant.
Kazantsev said she was inspired by the 2012 movie "Pitch Perfect" in which Anna Kendrick's character auditions for an a cappella group by performing rhythmically with a cup.
This marked the second consecutive year in which social media users unleashed a stream of disapproval toward a newly crowned Miss America. Last year, immediately after Nina Davuluri became the first Indian-American to win the crown, some online users directed racist taunts at her.
Bathed in midmorning sunshine Monday on the Atlantic City beach, Kazantsev filmed a number of video promos in which she asked fans to follower her on social media sites including Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Yet those sites continued to send forth disapproval from many users over her choice of material for the talent portion of the competition.
"ATTENTION ALL DRUNK COLLEGE GIRLS: Lower Standards now set for the #MissAmerica Talent Portion! Grab a #RedSoloCup, buy a gown and sign up!" read one of the kinder tweets soon after Kazantsev was crowned Sunday night.
Another read, "A girl with a solo cup sitting on the ground won #MissAmerica..that's what drunk college girls do freshman year after jungle juice."
The backlash continued unabated Monday afternoon with tweets like this one: "Canceling Elizabeth & Hadessa's piano, violin, ballet, & juggling lessons! I already have a RED CUP! Thank you #MissAmerica #savemoremoney"
Kazantsev is not particularly concerned with the online reaction to her performance.
"It's unconventional; and sometimes people aren't as open to change as some would like," she said. "It's just something different and I hope people take it as a positive. If they can appreciate that and be happy with what I did, then that's all I can ask."
Wayne Parry can be reached at http://twitter.com/WayneParryAC