Zaila Avant-Garde Is The Fierce Teen Who Just Became The First African-American To Win The Scripps National Spelling Bee

You cannot watch the video of the moment when 14-year-old Zaila Avant-Garde wins the Scripps Spelling Bee and not feel joy. The excitement and pride in she has in her win is infectious and the video of her win – which has now been watch tens of thousands of times – needs to be added to today’s playlist.

Not only was it a special moment for the 14-year-old teen from Louisiana, it was also a long overdue moment in history. Zaila became the first ever African-American winner in nearly 100 years of the competition. Way to go Zaila!

Zaila Avant-Garde is the latest champion of the Scripps National Spelling Bee – making history in the process!

On Thursday, 14-year-old Zaila Avant-garde of Harvey, Lousiana, breezed to to the top spot of the 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee, becoming the first African American winner in the tournament’s 96-year history. Her winning word was “murraya”, a genus of tropical Asiatic and Australian trees, and with it she beat out Chaitra Thummala, a 12-year-old from Frisco, Texas.

Video of her winning moment quickly went viral because of the pure joy evident in Zaila’s win. She twirled and leaped with excitement after spelling the winning word. Only one word gave her any real trouble – “nepeta”, a genus of old-world mints, and she jumped even higher when she got that one right than she did when she took the trophy.

Zaila is hoping to be an inspriation to other young girls around the world, ispriing them to chase their own dreams.

“I think the more that the achievements and triumphs of women are promoted and publicized, the more likely it is that little girls all around the world will see that they can do any and everything that they put their minds to,” she said.

But it turns out, spelling is just her side hustle.

Although the 14-year-old can now claim the top spot of one of the world’s major spelling bees, Zaila says that spelling isn’t even her top priority. The spelling champ says her “thing” is actually basketball. In fact, the teen has three Guinness World Records for her basketball skills, and she hopes to one day play in the WNBA or even coach in the NBA.

“For my eighth birthday, my parents gave me a Guinness World Records book and I became super motivated to get a record for myself,” she said in a mini doc created by Guinness about the basketball prodigy.

“Basketball, I’m not just playing it,” said Zaila, who lives in Louisiana. “I’m really trying to go somewhere with it. Basketball is what I do. Spelling is really a side thing I do. It’s like a little hors d’ouevre. But basketball’s like the main dish.”

In addition to a basketball career, she’s told reporters she wants to attend Harvard and maybe be an archeologist or work for NASA. And there’s no doubt at all that Zaila will achieve anything she sets out to accomplish!

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at