Zaila Avant-garde Makes History by Winning Scripps National Spelling Bee

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla.- Zaila Avant-garde, a 14-year-old girl from New Orleans in southern Louisiana, has become the first African American and first from Louisiana to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee, spelling the word “Murraya” correctly to secure the title.

Zaila spelled the word murraya, a genus of plants that flower in the Rutaceae citrus family in Asia, correctly to win.

The 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee, postponed one year due to COVID-19, started out with 209 spellers from various countries around the world including: Canada, Ghana, Japan, the Bahamas, and the U.S.

Thursday night’s 18th and final round only saw 11 out of the 209, and Zaila Avant-garde, speller #133, was the last one standing.

In a now viral video, Zaila beams with pride after hearing the ever so infamous, “that is correct” from the moderator. She jumped and spun around with confidence and enthusiasm while confetti rained down on the stage.

Zaila, who says she has been working on “the event for over two years,” said winning the event was a “dream come true” in an interview with CNN on Friday morning. “I felt like in the moment I snapped out of a surreal dream.”

When you type in “Zaila Avant-garde” to a Google search engine, yellow and black colored versions of the word murraya rain down over the news outlet stories concerning her huge win.

Zaila mentions how in preparation for the big day, she would “spell around 13,000 words per-day,” a task that takes around “seven hours to complete.”

Zaila, however, is not just a spelling bee champion.

While one of her dreams was to win the Scripps National Spelling Bee, another one is to play basketball at Harvard, then go on to play for the Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA), and eventually coach at the professional level—or become a NASA engineer.

She holds three-yes three- Guinness World Records for dibbling multiple basketballs at the same time. They include: most basketballs juggled in one minute with four, most dribbled in 30 seconds with four basketballs, and most basketballs dribbled by one person at the same time with six basketballs.

If that was not impressive enough, she has also starred in commercials with National Basketball League (NBA) star Steph Curry, who serves as point guard of the Golden State Warriors, the NBA team based in San Fransisco that can be seen here.

Even though Zaila can no longer compete in a spelling bee-previous winners are ineligible to compete—she certainly has a bright future ahead.