Here She Is

09.16.13

Nina Davuluri Crowned Miss America: The First Miss America of Indian Descent

Miss New York, Nina Davuluri, was crowned Miss America Sunday night, becoming the first woman of Indian descent to receive the honor. Davuluri is a doctor-to-be who overcame a battle with weight to win, but still faced a firestorm of racism on Twitter following her groundbreaking moment.

Either way, history was going to be made Sunday night.

The 87th Miss America pageant, which aired live on ABC from Atlantic City, New Jersey, came down to two highly decorated Asian-Americans: Crystal Lee, a.k.a. Miss California, a 22-year-old of Chinese descent with a B.A. in human biology and an M.A. in communication from Stanford; and Miss New York, Nina Davuluri, 24, an Indian-American who is an aspiring physician with a degree in brain and cognitive science from the University of Michigan.

“I’m wondering how you’re feeling at this moment?” asked host Lara Spencer of Good Morning America to the final two contestants.

She turned the mike to Lee, who was speechless. Then, Davuluri chimed in.

“We’re both so proud. We’re making history right here, standing here as Asian-Americans,” she confidently replied.

Moments later, Davuluri was crowned your new Miss America.

Questlove, the drummer for The Roots, summed it up perfectly:

But moments after that, she became a target on Twitter, and was subjected to a string of disgusting, idiotic, racist tweets.

Davuluri is the American dream. She was born in Syracuse, New York, to two Indian parents. Her father is an obstetrician/gynecologist. When she was 4, the family moved to Oklahoma and later to Michigan (they currently live in Fayetteville, New York). During her teen years, she got into beauty pageants and was awarded Miss Michigan’s Outstanding Teen in 2006, as well as second runner-up to Miss America’s Outstanding Teen that same year. She won about $25,000 in scholarships, and attended the University of Michigan, where she was a highly decorated student, named to the Dean’s List and receiving the Michigan Merit award and the National Honor Society award. On July 16, she was crowned Miss New York on Staten Island. She nicknamed herself “Miss Diversity” and was a favorite to win the 2014 Miss America crown.

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After winning Miss America, Nina Davuluri was attacked by racists on Twitter.

Davuluri weighed 170 pounds. She struggled with bulimia and, when she was anxious, would eat excessively.

Just last week, she became the subject of controversy when Page Six claimed they had a tape recording of her calling Miss America Mallory Hagan “fat as f—k.”

Davuluri took to Facebook to clear up the allegations, writing, “I want to apologize for the awful statements made by people in my room ... There were people who claimed to be my supporters and said things I never agreed with, nor supported ... I was never a part of the words or statements that may have been hurtful ... I’m sorry if someone said something that was inappropriate.”

A Miss America representative, meanwhile, cleared Davuluri of any wrongdoing. “The situation was investigated fully back in July and there is no validity to the story whatsoever,” they said. “Miss New York spoke to Mallory Hagan to let her know there was no validity and to apologize if she was offended in any way.”

The claim by Page Six was highly unusual considering Davuluri had struggled with her own weight in the past.

During her final semesters at the University of Michigan, Davuluri weighed 170 pounds. She struggled with bulimia and, when she was anxious, would eat excessively. About 16 months ago, she walked into a gym at Syracuse’s ShoppingTown Mall with a coupon from Living Social. The gym is owned by Tia Falcone, who became Davuluri’s trainer. At the time, she weighed 137 pounds. With Falcone’s help, she got down to 117 pounds and 18 percent body fat, which is where the beauty currently stands.

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Earlier in the Miss America pageant, judge Carla Hall (Top Chef) asked Davuluri about The Talk co-host Julie Chen’s recent admission that she had plastic surgery when she was younger to “make her eyes appear less Asian,” adding, “What message does this send to young women?"

Davuluri paused.

“Unfortunately, I don’t agree with plastic surgery, however, I can understand that from her standpoint,” she said. “But more importantly, I’ve always viewed Miss America as the girl next door, and the girl next door is evolving as diversity in America evolves. She’s not who she was 10 years ago, and she’s not going to be the same person come 10 years down the road.”