The 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee Champion, Zaila Avant-garde became the first African American winner on Thursday evening in the 96-year history of the competition .
The competition was fierce but Zaila crushed it, celebrating the win with smiles and twirls under a burst of confetti as she received the winning trophy.
In addition to this historic win, the 14-year-old eighth grader from Harvey, LA has accomplished many firsts. She is a basketball prodigy, who holds three basketball-related Guinness World Records for her basketball talents: the most bounce juggles in one minute with four basketballs, the most basketball bounces in 30 seconds with four basketballs, and ties the record for most basketballs dribbled at once — six — by one person.
Bill Murray made the spelling bee
Zaila Avant-garde knew her National Spelling Bee winning word thanks to Bill Murray.
She is not only extremely intelligent and talented, she may be the first Spelling Bee Champ with a sense of humor as well. The winning word was “murraya,” which is a type of tree. In the most tense moment of the evening, before her big win, she calmly made a Bill Murray joke which stole the hearts of many viewers across the country, instantly responding on Twitter calling her “a boss.”
Clearly knowing she had this, she said, “Murraya. Does this word contain, like, the English name ‘Murray,’ which could be the name of a comedian?”
The moderator laughed saying, “Bill Murray made the spelling bee.”
She confirmed to CNN she knew how to spell murraya thanks to associating it with the actor.
“I knew murraya because, as I’m sure I kind of implied. I’d always connected it with Bill Murray,” she said.
Avant-garde said she felt “really good” after her victory. “I mean, I was a bit surprised. I’ve been warned about the confetti. Now I get a nice trophy, which is the best part of any win,” she said.
“It made me feel really proud,” she said after clinching the victory. “I’m really hoping lots of little brown girls all over the world and stuff are really motivated to try out spelling and stuff because it’s really a fun thing to do and it’s a great way to kind of connect yourself with education, which is super important.”
Zaila hopes to attend Harvard, play in the WNBA and maybe even become an NBA coach one day. She also thinks she might like working for NASA, or going into neuroscience or gene editing.