MISS AMERICA: NINA DAVULURI
Here She Is…Miss Nina Davuluri
By Teryl Warren
There are many women in the spotlight today who appear to be struggling with issues of identity and self-esteem. But don’t even think about counting Nina Davuluri among them. Having been raised in a “very Indian household,” the twenty-four year old Syracuse, NY native made history and stunned audiences from coast to coast on September 15 in Atlantic City when she was crowned the first Miss America of Indian descent.
Shortly after her historic pageant win, Davuluri became the target of much-publicized xenophobic and racist rants. Social media sites were set ablaze with criticisms related to the proximity of the Miss America pageant date to the anniversary of the September 11th tragedies; and many misidentified Ms. Davuluri as being either Muslim or Arab – some even going so far as to associate her with terrorist organizations like Al-Qaeda. In interview after interview, Ms. Davuluri has been asked how she was able to maintain such poise in the wake of such ignorance and hostility.
The sad truth is she’d seen it all before. You see, she fell victim to similar backlash – on a smaller scale – when she was crowned Miss New York earlier in the pageant process.
“I have to rise above that,” she’s said. “I always viewed myself as first and foremost American.”She also later noted that, “for every negative comment, there were a dozen positive messages [...] I am set to launch a campaign, which would focus on unity in diversity.”
As a contestant for the Miss America 2014 title, Nina Davuluri ran on a platform of “Celebrating Diversity through Cultural Competency.” She broke new ground and, on some level, helped bridge cultural gaps during the talent competition by opting to perform a Classical Bollywood Fusion dance rather than sing. Since her win, she’s launched her Circles of Unity campaign and invites Followers, via Twitter, to share their pictures and thoughts about cultural awareness.
Despite the uproar and racist rants that arose in the wake of her victory, Nina Davuluri is, perhaps, the ideal Miss America for our era: traditional, yet modern, intelligent and beautiful, compassionate to the needs of others and thoroughly comfortable in her own skin. She has candidly spoken about issues like her past weight struggles, issues of color within the Indian community and introducing her current boyfriend to her parents – whose marriage, by the way, was arranged.
While studying at the University of Michigan, Davuluri earned multiple academic honors, including the Michigan Merit Award as well as being named to the Dean’s List and the National Honor Society. Her ultimate career ambition is to become a physician, but that will have to wait – for now. Just days after being crowned, Ms. Davuluri set off on a whirlwind media tour and will likely log upwards of 20,000 travel miles per month during her year as Miss America 2014.
Nina Davuluri’s reign, while historic, is simply another chapter in a long legacy rich in pride and the promotion of excellence. In a day where traditional standards of beauty are constantly being questioned and redefined, Miss America remains an inspiring and relevant symbol of beauty and femininity.
The Miss America pageant has been serving up its special breed of style, service, scholarship and success since 1921. The Miss America Organization is a not-for-profit organization that has maintained a tradition for many decades of empowering American women to achieve their personal and professional goals, while providing a forum in which to express their opinions, talent and intelligence.
The Miss America Organization is one of the nation’s leading achievement programs and the world’s largest provider of scholarship assistance for young women. Last year, the Miss America Organization and its state and local organizations made available more than $45 million in cash and scholarship assistance.
The Miss America pageant first aired on network television in 1954 and the telecast is the fourth longest-running live event in television history. It has been broadcast live at one time or another by all three of the country’s major television networks.
Since 1997, Miss America participants nationwide have taken part in Make a Difference Day. Local and state titleholders, volunteers and Miss America make a difference through community service initiatives in conjunction with the Points of Light Foundation and USA Weekend.
In 2000, state and local contestants collectively participated in 12,384 community-service projects, dedicating a total of 571,177 hours and raising millions of dollars for worthy causes.
To learn more about Nina Davuluri or the Missa America Organization, please visit:
You can follow Nina Davuluri on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/NinaDavuluri