Though Miss Illinois didn't make the cut, 'she did a wonderful job'

Though Miss Illinois didn't make the cut, 'she did a wonderful job'

Centennial graduate Grace Khachaturian didn't make the cut at Sunday's Miss America contest in Atlantic City, N.J.

After preliminaries, which lasted throughout the last week, the 51 contestants were cut to 15 at the outset of the 8 p.m. show, and Miss Illinois' name wasn't called.

"We could not be prouder of the effort she put in (in the preliminary competition)," said her father, Stevie Jay Khachaturian. "We felt great about the interview, she did a wonderful job with her talent. She did a great job on her on-stage question ... We're disappointed, but we're so proud of Grace and who she is."

In the end, it was Miss New York Nia Franklin out of 51 competitors who took the 2019 Miss America crown on Sunday in Atlantic City, N.J.

Khachaturian, a veteran of pageants after winning the Illinois teen and pre-teen contests, competed in a newly reformed Miss America contest this year. The swimsuit and evening gown competitions were out, and a new job interview portion was in.

The talent portion was given 50 percent weight. Khachaturian performed a lyrical dance to Josh Groban's "You Raise Me Up."

"In 90 seconds, she can get people to cry with that song and the way she interprets it and how amazing she is at her lyrical dance," her father said. "She said the other night, 'If that's my last dance, I'd be happy.' That's how good it was."

While she won't wear the Miss America crown, Khachaturian will spend the year as Miss Illinois. She'll likely take a year off of school at Illinois and spend time traveling across the state speaking at schools, civic events and other gatherings about mental health in schools, which is her chosen social impact initiative. She'll also head to every local pageant for next year's "Miss Illinois" competition.

"My primary focus is speaking to schools about mental health as well as a program called 'Character Counts,'" she told The News-Gazette before she left for Atlantic City. "So reminding students of the importance of having day to day character, building that into your daily life. The big message that I want to focus on is that 'You matter,' that every individual has a role to play and a significant purpose ... It'll be a lot of driving, it'll be a lot of traveling from place to place around the state."

She may go home without a new crown on her head, but her dad said the experience was a valuable one.

"She thought she made an impact and felt great," he said. "You just don't know exactly why she wasn't in the top 15 — we really thought she'd be in there — but we're so proud of her. I'm only sad because America didn't get to meet her more. She's a strong woman of faith that's going to impact a lot of lives."