Zalia Avant-garde Becomes First African American Spelling Bee Champ

By Darby Jones July 17, 2021
Multi-talented Zaila Avant-garde became the first African American winner of the National Spelling Bee. Louisiana State University and many other colleges have offered her full-ride scholarships.

The 2021 Scripps National Spelling Bee Champion, 14-year-old Zaila Avant-garde, was born in Harvey, Louisiana. Her father gave her the last name Avant-garde after his favorite album by musician John Coltrane. She is homeschooled by her parents, along with her three brothers. 

Avant-garde out-spelled 11 finalists on July 8, 2021 to clinch the prestigious title. Spelling is not her only talent, though. Avant-garde is also a talented basketball player, and holds three Guinness World Records for “Most Bounces in one minute with three basketballs,” “Most Bounce Juggles in one minute with four basketballs,” and the third record is for the “Most Basketballs dribbled by one person simultaneously.” Avant-garde can also ride a unicycle among her many talents. 

Avant-garde has had quite the whirlwind since winning the Spelling Bee. She attended the ESPYs in New York City on July 10, and she is planning to visit the White House. Perhaps the most exciting thing to happen since her historic win is the several full-ride college scholarships she has been offered. Louisiana State University and Southern University and A&M College are among the universities to reach out to Avant-garde.

“I’m hoping that in a few years I’ll see a whole lot more African American females, and males too, are doing well in the Scripps Spelling Bee,” she said in a statement. “It’s a really good thing. It’s a good gate opener to being interested in education.”

Image source: National Review