Miss America crowns 1st winner of Indian descent
POSTED: Monday, September 16, 2013 - 10:00am
UPDATED: Monday, September 16, 2013 - 10:04am
NATIONAL NEWS (CNN) — She's the second consecutive New York beauty queen to take the Miss America title, but she's the first Indian-American to wear the national crown -- er, tiara -- atop her perfectly coiffed head.
"I was the first Indian Miss New York, and I'm so proud to be the first Indian Miss America," Nina Davuluri said after she won.
Davuluri's resume goes considerably deeper than her heritage, however.
The 24-year-old Fayetteville, New York, native was on the dean's list and earned the Michigan Merit Award and National Honor Society nods while studying at the University of Michigan, where she graduated with a degree in brain behavior and cognitive science.
Her father, who emigrated from India 30 years ago, is a gynecologist, and Davuluri said she'd like to become a physician one day as well.
"During her year as Miss America she will serve as spokesperson for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) this year as she travels to Washington, D.C., to work with the Department of Education," according to a Miss America statement.
She also is passionate about healthy lifestyles after battling obesity and bulimia when she was younger.
Davuluri's platform was "Celebrating Diversity Through Cultural Competency." For the talent portion of the competition, she performed classic Indian dances fused with Bollywood moves.
She has studied the Kuchipudi and Bharatanatyam styles of dance, and in preparation for the Miss America contest, she worked with famed Bollywood choreographer Nakul Dev Mahajan.
Miss California Crystal Lee was first runner-up, and Miss Oklahoma Kelsey Griswold was second runner-up, while Theresa Vail, the tattooed, bow-hunting, Chinese-speaking Miss Kansas, won the online viewers' poll.
Despite a night of firsts, a tired theme emerged following Davuluri's victory: Racists took to Twitter to lambaste the pageant for picking an Indian-American. They were none too kind to Davuluri herself, either, with one particularly uninformed tweeter calling her a Muslim.
Something similar happened when Rima Fakih was crowned Miss USA in 2010. Fakih is of Lebanese descent, and many were quick to try to link her to the militant group Hezbollah.
CNN's AnneClaire Stapleton contributed to this report.