NEW JERSEY/HOUSTON: Twenty-four-year-old Miss New York Nina Davuluri today became the first contestant of Indian-origin to win the prestigious Miss America pageant after wooing the judges with a Bollywood fusion dance.
Nina, who aspires to become a physician like her father, will earn at least USD 50,000 in scholarships.
She was crowned Miss America during an event held in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
“I’m so happy this organization has embraced diversity,” she said in her first press conference after winning the crown.
“I’m thankful there are children watching at home who can finally relate to a new Miss America.”
Her pageant platform was “celebrating diversity through cultural competency” and Davuluri said she’s had to dispel a lot of misconceptions about her culture through the years, such as whether her parents will arrange a marriage for her.
She said she plans to represent her roots and push her platform of diversity in her new role.
“I’m most excited to promote my platform, I was the first Indian Miss New York and I’m so proud to be the first Indian Miss America,” she said tearfully.
Davuluri, in a canary-yellow evening gown, walked the runway after being named Miss America, waving and brushing away tears of joy.
Fifty three gorgeous women from as many states participated in the competition. Miss California Crystal Lee was the runner-up. Miss Oklahoma Kesley Griswold came in third place.
Contestants were judged on evening gowns, lifestyle/fitness, talent, a personal interview and an on-stage question.
Davuluri is the second consecutive Miss New York to win the Miss America crown, succeeding Mallory Hagan.
She was asked about the wisdom of TV anchor getting plastic surgery on her eyes to alter her appearance.
Davuluri said she’s against plastic surgery, but said people should make their own choice but be confident in their appearances.
She showcased a classical Bollywood fusion dance piece as her talent. Soon after being named Miss New York, Davuluri was working with Nakul Dev Mahajan, a choreographer with the “So You Think You Can Dance” television show.
She also had formal training in Indian dance for the past 15 years, including summers in India.
Davuluri, who struggled with bulimia and weight problem, said she lost 60 pounds prior to becoming Miss New York.
Davuluri was born in Syracuse, but moved to Oklahoma at age four then to Michigan at 10.
Six years ago, her family moved to Fayetteville, where her dad is an obstetrician/gynecologist affiliated with St Joseph’s Hospital.
Davuluri’s has a degree from the University of Michigan in brain behavior and cognitive science.
She plans to become a physician and says she would love to attend Upstate Medical University.
She says she’s a ‘Type A personality’, and makes it a priority to stay organized every minute. -PTI