ANDERSON — In front of family and friends, Anderson resident A’niyah Birdsong won the Miss Indiana USA crown she will wear for the next year.

She was crowned Monday night at the Paramount Theatre and will represent the state at the Miss USA pageant later this year.

Birdsong, 26, is a graduate of Anderson Preparatory Academy and received a $60,000 scholarship to attend any state university.

“I’m so happy,” she said after winning the title. “To have it happen at the Paramount, where I’ve spent so much time, is special.”

Birdsong said she went into the night’s event feeling confident that she could break the mold.

Each contestant answered one question written by a competitor and randomly drawn from a bowl. For a question about people getting news and being misinformed, Birdsong said it’s the responsibility of each individual to do fact-checking across many platforms.

“We need to do our due diligence,” she said.

Her judge’s question was about the role of strong women in society.

Birdsong said women are dynamic and challenge the status quo in every room they enter.

She joins previous Miss Andersons who went on to be crowned Miss Indiana USA: Jill Jackson (O’Malia) in 1969 and Teri Kardatzke in 1980.

“I’m proud as all get-out,” her father, Shaun, said Tuesday. “It was a good competition. I had a lot of confidence.”

Shaun Birdsong said ughter won the title of Miss Indiana University in her first pageant and finished as second runner-up in the 2019 Miss Indiana pageant.

“There were a lot of family and friends there to support her,” he said. “I’ve always been proud of her.”

Not only was A’niyah Birdsong recognized by the judges, but the other contestants voted her their first choice as Miss Indiana if they didn’t win the title.

Crown Moxie, the company that produced the pageant, also has an Anderson connection. Co-owner Brittany Mason is an Anderson native and won the Miss Indiana USA title in 2008 and finished seventh in the national contest.

In 2004, Mason finished as first runner-up in the Teen Model of the World pageant.

At age 16 she left Anderson to start a modeling career in New York City.

“This is a dream come true,” Mason said of having the event at the Paramount Theatre.

Mason was honored by the city of Anderson with a Service to Mankind award for her safer schools work.

Miss Greenwood, Samantha Toney, was the first runner-up in Monday night’s pageant.

Miss Bloomington, Lexi Gryszowka, was crowned Miss Teen Indiana USA, with Miss Festival Country, Kinley Shoemaker, named first runner-up.

Henry County’s Miss Indiana Teen, Emma-Kate Moore, was in the top 10 finalists and received the Best Appearance award for her mentions in the local news media.

Moore played five varsity sports and received 18 varsity letters during her high school career at Knightstown High School. She is a volunteer with Special Olympics.

Follow Ken de la Bastide on Twitter @KendelaBastide, or call 765-640-4863.

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Senior Reporter covering Anderson and Madison County government, politics and auto racing for The Herald Bulletin. Has been working as a journalist in central Indiana since 1977.