While many Miss Americas have had to respond to criticisms on their appearance, none has to do so more quickly than Nina Davuluri, whose crowning unleashed an online torrent of racially-charged posts that quickly became the topic of her first news conference.
Davuluri, the first American-born woman of Indian descent to be crowned Miss America Sunday night, was immediately the focus of criticism on social media.
Angry postings called the New York contestant “an Arab,” and “Miss Al-Qaeda.” Some sneered that she worked at a convenience store, while others complained that it was disgraceful to see an Indian-American crowned Miss America so close to the 9/11 anniversary.
The 24-year-old immediately spoke about about the importance of getting others to see past stereotypes — something she has dealt with her entire life.
Growing up she faced many stereotypes when her family moved to live in Oklahoma and Michigan.
"I was often mistaken for Native American or asked if I was going to get an arranged marriage," she said.
“I have always viewed myself as first and foremost American,” Davuluri said. “There are always going to be extreme people who are going to say things like that, but you have to rise above it.”
Davuluri’s family emigrated to the United States from India 30 years ago. She was born in Syracuse, N.Y. Her father is a doctor, and her older sister is in medical school. A graduate of the University of Michigan, Davuluri said she will use the $50,000 in scholarship money to attend medical school as well.
She celebrated her heritage by performing a classic Bollywood fusion during the talent portion of the competition. In preparation for Miss America, Davuluri trained with Bollywood choreographer Nakul Dev Mahajan, who has choreographed for “So You Think You Can Dance.”
While Davuluri brushed off the insults after her win, the comments continued to garner worldwide attention on social media. Other posters on social media websites praised Davuluri’s response and said the hatred and bigotry displayed was embarassing.
Davuluri, whose platform is celebrating diversity through cultural competency, thanked the Miss America Organization for embracing diversity during her first press conference Sunday night.
In a separate interview Monday, she said her crowning and platform the the resulting attacks give her the opportunity to talk about race, as well as understanding others backgrounds and beliefs.
By being Miss America she has the chance to relate to a wide audience and demographic and she is proud to represent such a diverse class, she said.
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