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A Miss America Contestant Used Her 10-Second Intro To Call Out The Flint Water Crisis During The Pageant

Emily Sioma told BuzzFeed News she felt it was her personal duty to "leverage [her] privilege to be a voice for people from the state who feel they're forgotten about."

Last updated on September 10, 2018, at 5:41 p.m. ET

Posted on September 10, 2018, at 12:24 p.m. ET

A contestant in the Miss America pageant on Sunday caught everyone sideways when she decided to use her quick introduction to call attention to the Flint water crisis.

Carlo Allegri / Reuters

24-year-old Emily Sioma, the contestant from Michigan, introduced herself by saying: "From the state with 84% of the US fresh water but none for its residents to drink, I am Miss Michigan Emily Sioma."

Miss Michigan should automatically win #MissAmerica for starting with this! 😳 #Home #GoGirl

Sioma told BuzzFeed News the idea to use her seconds of air-time to address the water crisis in her home state came to her a few days before the pageant.

"I thought to myself, 'if you don't make top 15, you won't have the chance to speak on national television about things that are important to you," she said.

She then asked herself: "How are you going to make this moment meaningful?"

Sioma said she felt it was her personal duty to "leverage [her] privilege to be a voice for people from the state who feel they're forgotten about."

"The issue was too important to be brushed under the rug — I was just thankful I was allowed the opportunity to represent Michigan."

The attempt to bring attention to the ongoing health crisis of lead-contaminated water in Flint, Michigan, caught people off guard, but in the best way.

Shots fired #missAmerica “From the state with 84% of the US fresh water, but not enough for its residents, I am Miss Michigan” https://t.co/zDqCJc45ie

“From the state with 84% of the nation’s fresh water, but none for its citizens I AM MISS MICHIGAN.” #MissAmerica

"Well damn, Miss Michigan!"

Well damn, Miss Michigan! https://t.co/Eh2cU1Pwpg

"Miss Michigan has time today chile."

Miss Michigan has time today chile https://t.co/rpGD4Z7jcX

Sioma said after the pageant she was immediately getting alerts and messages from social media, and she was starting to realize the single moment had become "much bigger than a state and national issue."

She's humbled and thankful for the overwhelming amount of positive responses from people.

"I wanted to use the opportunity to highlight what it means to be empowered, to use your privilege — privilege of your beauty, your skin color, your class — to uplift others and give them the opportunity to speak their truths and to have their concerns listened to," she said.

Miss New York Nia Franklin was ultimately crowned Miss America, but people thought Sioma should also win "simply for stating there still isn't any clean water" in Flint.

Miss Michigan needs to win the 2019 Miss America Pageant simply for stating there still isn't any clean water during her introduction! #Michigan #MissAmerica 💕

Sioma said she does not want the moment to "overtake [Miss America winner] Nia and her experience."

But she hopes it can inspire others to know that "our voices, no matter if we have the crown of Miss America or not, are valid and are relevant and important."

BuzzFeed News has contacted Miss America for comment.

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