She was a cheerleader and the student body president at Las Lomas High School in Walnut Creek, California. She then went on to study political science, geography, and global studies at Hofstra University.
When she was 13, she was named Miss California Preteen and at the age of 16, she became Miss California Jr.
She was born to a pair of Russian immigrants in San Francisco, California.
She succeeded Nina Davuluri as Miss America.