Nina Davuluri

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Nina Davuluri
2014 Miss America Nina Davuluri (cropped).jpg
Davuluri at the Miss America 2014 traditional toe dip.
Born (1989-04-20) April 20, 1989 (age 24)
Syracuse, New York
Residence Fayetteville, New York
Nationality American
Ethnicity Indian American
Education University of Michigan
(B.S.Brain, Behavior & Cognitive Science, 2011)
Le Moyne College
(Post-bac pre-med courses)
Occupation Applying to medical school (for Fall 2015)[1]
Known for First Indian American Miss America and Miss New York
Title Miss Michigan's Outstanding Teen 2006
First runner up at Miss America's Outstanding Teen 2007
Miss Syracuse 2013
Miss New York 2013
Miss America 2014
Term September 15, 2013 - September 14, 2014 [2]
Predecessor Shannon Oliver (Miss New York)
Mallory Hagan (Miss America)
Successor Amanda Mason (Miss New York)
Religion Hinduism
Awards Dean's List
Michigan Merit Award
National Honor Society Award

Nina Davuluri (born April 20, 1989) is Miss America 2014. She is the first Indian American and second Asian American to be chosen as Miss America. Davuluri is also the first to perform a Bollywood dance on the Miss America stage. After she was crowned Miss America, there was a backlash of xenophobic and racist comments in social media.[3][4][5][6][7][8]

Early life and high school[edit]

Davuluri was born on April 20, 1989 in Syracuse, New York,[9] to Hindu Telugu parents [10][11] from Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh, India.[11] Her mother Sheela Davuluri is an information technology specialist,[10] her father Chaudhury Davuluri is an OB/GYN,[10] and her elder sister Meena is a medical student at SUNY Upstate Medical University.[7]

When she was six weeks old, Davuluri was brought to live with her grandmother and aunt in Vijayawada. She stayed there until she was two and a half years old, at which time her parents brought her back to the United States.[12] She would return to India every summer, however, to study various forms of Indian dance.[10] She also speaks Telugu.[13]

Davaluri lived in Oklahoma for a period as a child until her family moved to St. Joseph, Michigan when she was 10.[14] While in Michigan, she studied ballet, tap dance, and jazz dance. She was also a "high school marching band clarinetist, cheerleader, varsity tennis player and Science Olympiad team member at St. Joseph High School."[10] Davuluri graduated from St. Joseph in 2007,[14] the same year that her family moved to Fayetteville, New York.[15]

Higher education[edit]

Davuluri is the recipient of several awards including Dean's List, Michigan Merit Award, and National Honor Society Award.[16] She initially attended Michigan State University for one year and then transferred to the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.[10] While at the University of Michigan, she was a Sigma Kappa (Alpha Mu)[17][18] and a member of the Indian dance squad, Maya.[10] She graduated in 2011 from The University of Michigan's College of Literature, Science and the Arts (LSA) with a B.S. in Brain, Behavior & Cognitive Science.[10][17][19]

After graduation, Davuluri moved to New York to live with her family. She then pursued a post-bac program of pre-med courses [1] at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, New York[10] in order to complete medical school requirements. She will apply to med school for the year beginning in Fall 2015, since she is committed to being Miss America through September 2014.[1]

Miss Michigan Outstanding Teen and Miss New York[edit]

Davuluri notes that she became involved in pageants in order to earn money for her higher education.[20] She began competing while a resident of Michigan and won Miss Michigan's Outstanding Teen 2006. She was later first runner up at Miss America's Outstanding Teen 2007, receiving a $25,000 scholarship that enabled her to "graduate debt-free from the University of Michigan."[14][21] Davuluri then "took about five years off from the pageant world" in order to finish her undergraduate education.[21]

She reentered the pageant world years later while a resident of New York in order to earn money for medical school.[21] In 2012, Davuluri was first runner up for Miss New York.[10] In 2013, she became the first Indian American Miss New York.[22][23] After she was crowned Miss New York, Davuluri invited friends to her hotel room for a party. A fellow contestant in a neighboring hotel room claimed that she overheard Davuluri refer to Miss America 2013 Mallory Hagan as “fat as [bleep]" during the party. According to a Miss America official, "The situation was investigated fully back in July and there is no validity to the story whatsoever. 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.”[24] Davuluri has also stated in interviews that she did not make these remarks and that "Mallory and I are good friends."[25] In addition, Davuluri has spoken publicly about losing 53 pounds (24 kg), her personal struggles with bulimia, and her belief that you don't need to be a certain size to be healthy.[26] She states: "I first got in shape for personal reasons, not for Miss America. I lost the weight two years previous to competition. Really for me it was about getting healthy. I struggled with an eating disorder and I just didn't want to live like that anymore. I really could not do that to myself anymore."[27]

2014 Miss America pageant[edit]

"People were saying that if I were in India it would have been more difficult for me to win Miss India. It is so sad to see that divide within all countries - where this exists - this sort of divide of racism, cultural sense exists. I grew up in an Indian household, and my parents, or my mom at least, bless her heart, would always say, "Don't go out in the sun because you are going to get too dark." The University of Michigan had a huge Indian population, I have quite a few Indian friends and there would be times where we would take a picture and they would say, "Oh my god, delete that - I look so dark." That's just something that we grew up with. To finally be able to reach out to all young girls, both Indian and non-Indian. ... There is always something we are trying to attain for this image of what we think is beautiful. Regardless of your gender, your race, your ethnicity, socioeconomic status, anyone can truly follow their dreams, become anything they want."

— Nina Davuluri [6][10][21][28][29][30][31][32]

The Miss America 2014 pageant took place on September 15, 2013.[33]

For the talent portion, Davulri performed a fusion of Bollywood dance with Indian classical dance (she grew up studying Indian classical dance forms Kuchipudi and Bharatanatyam).[11][12][34][35] She choreographed the routine with the help of Nakul Dev Mahajan and performed it to the song, "Dhoom Taana," from the Bollywood film, Om Shanti Om (starring her favorite Bollywood actor, Shahrukh Khan).[34][36][37] Davuluri stated in an interview with Inside Edition that for her talent routine, she "actually started off singing." She eventually chose instead to do a Bollywood fusion dance because it was "so representative" of her, despite the fact that many people told her that she is "never going to win with a Bollywood talent so just go back to singing if you are serious about it." She also noted that it's the first time that a Bollywood dance routine was performed at the Miss America pageant.[26]

In the moments before she was named Miss America 2014, Davuluri and Miss California Crystal Lee were asked by host Lara Spencer how they were feeling. Davuluri stated that she and Lee were "both so proud. We’re making history right here, standing here as Asian-Americans.”[38][39][40] In a later interview with NPR's Michel Martin, Davulri described the moment as a, "very surreal, out-of-body experience, being there in the final two. I was holding hands with Miss California, Crystal Lee, and we were both standing there at such a historic moment - two Asian-Americans who were going to take the title and to be a new symbol of hope and encouragement." [21]

Davuluri has stated that she will use the $50,000 scholarship that she won from the Miss America pageant (as well as the $10,000 scholarship from the Miss New York pageant) towards future payment for medical school.[41][42]

Backlash and response[edit]

Shortly after she was crowned Miss America, there was a backlash of xenophobic and racist comments[4][8] related to the proximity of the event date to the nine-eleven anniversary and to anti-Indian sentiment in American social media.[4][5][6][43] News agencies cited tweets that misidentified her as Muslim or Arab, associated her with groups such as Al-Qaeda, and questioned why she was chosen over Miss Kansas Theresa Vail.[4][5][29][44] Davuluri responded by stating that "I have to rise above that, I always viewed myself as first and foremost American."[43] She said that she was prepared for this because "as Miss New York, I was called a terrorist and very similar remarks."[28][45] In addition, when asked by the Times of India if the backlash hurt her, Davuluri stated: "not really. Yes, it was unfortunate that such a thing happened. But for every negative comment, there were a dozen positive messages. I had expected some backlash, but as I said, I am set to launch a campaign, which would focus on unity in diversity."[25][37]

Davuluri also received public support as a result of these comments. Miss Kansas Theresa Vail denounced this response in a September 19 post on her blog (Miss Outdoor Girl) asking: "Only 3 weeks ago [...] we celebrated the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King’s acclaimed I Have a Dream speech" but "have we really progressed as a nation? Have we overcome the obstacles of injustice and racism? Have we lived up to what Dr. King envisioned? Evidently not, because it is 2013 and Nina Davuluri, Miss America 2014, is receiving racist backlash for her heritage." She continues by stating: "Most of you are familiar with my own platform; Empowering women to overcome stereotypes and break barriers. Well, Nina is doing just that. As her friend, as a titleholder, and as a leader, I give her my support [....] To my own fans; you supported me for breaking so many barriers and I ask that you now do the same for the reigning Miss America." [46] In a later interview with Army Times, Vail referred to these comments as "disgusting."[47] U.S. Representative for New York's 3rd congressional district, Steve Israel stated that he is "troubled by the remarks aimed at" Davuluri and that he joins "with the voices of the many Americans who have cried out against these hateful remarks, and I will continue to work in Congress to fight against hatred."[48] In addition, actor and activist George Takei (Star Trek's Sulu) also defended her in a post on Facebook.[49][50] Takei later appeared a joint ABC News interview with Davuluri, in which she revealed that she is a Trekkie. Takei told her, "In Star Trek we have this creed: 'Infinite diversity in infinite combinations'. That's what Starfleet was all about so you're a part of that." Davuluri ended the interview by stating, "I have to say 'Live Long and Prosper'" at which point Takei offered her the Vulcan salute, which she returned.[51]


"I really wanted to help effect a change in beauty standards [....] Miss America's branding is so associated with the girl next door, which has always meant blonde hair and blue eyes with only a few exceptions, but the girl next door must evolve as the country evolves. When I was younger I wanted to fit in, but I was aware growing up that I didn't fit that mould, and I really wanted to help make a change that meant young girls wouldn't feel like that."

—Nina Davuluri[20]

While the Miss World (Reita Faria, 1966; Aishwarya Rai, 1994; Diana Hayden, 1997; Yukta Mookhey, 1999; Priyanka Chopra, 2000), Miss Universe (Sushmita Sen, 1994; Lara Dutta, 2000), and Miss Earth (Nicole Faria, 2010) pageants have showcased winners from India, Davuluri is the first Indian American to win the Miss America pageant [30][33][52] and the first to win the Miss New York title as well.[21] NPR's Michel Martin discussed the signficance of the 2014 Miss America pageant in an interview with Davuluri. Martin noted that while Davuluri was not the first Asian American to be Miss America (the first was Filipino American Angela Perez Baraquio in 2001)[53] "there were" Martin said "five Asian-Americans competing for the crown. That's the highest number in pageant history. Three of you were in the top five. Two of you were the finalists, and this in a contest where initially the requirements were that contestants be of good health and of the white race."[21][54]

Davuluri is the second Miss Syracuse after Miss New York 1983 Vanessa Williams (the first African American winner and Miss America 1984).[55][56] Both she and Williams won when the pageant was held in Atlantic City and both faced a backlash over their respective wins.[55][56] In addition, Congresswoman Grace Meng compared Davuluri to the first Miss New York to win the crown as well as the first Jewish American winner Bess Myerson (Miss America 1945).[56][57] Myerson also faced a backlash as a result of her win.[56][58]

At the time that she won, Miss America officials stated that the level of interest in Davuluri was "unprecedented" in the history of the pageant.[59]

Miss America role[edit]

"Last Tuesday, the first Indian Miss America, Nina Davuluri, came to speak at Yale. She is also the first Miss America to receive xenophobic comments about being a terrorist or Muslim extremist. In addition to being all-around well spoken, graceful and sassy, she thoughtfully explained her platform of cultural competence and stressed that patiently answering people’s questions is one of the strongest ways to combat ignorance [....] Responding to offensive questions with tolerance and patience might be more effective than harsh words. As we can see from Davuluri’s response to her critics, tolerance begets tolerance."

—Lorraine James, a junior at Yale University, February 2014[60]

During her year of service, Davuluri spoke at various high schools and colleges promoting her platform: "Celebrating Diversity Through Cultural Competency" [61] (which she had been developing for three years prior to becoming Miss America).[25][34][45] She elaborated on this platform in a talk that she gave at Yale University [60] as one which uses social media as a form of activism.[62] Describing it as her 'Circles of Unity' movement, Davuluri encourages students to see social media as a tool to spread cultural awareness and combat ignorance.[62] In a different interview, Davuluri stated that she "really hope[s] this dialogue creates a new positive and enlightening discussion via social media. I hope that people will understand that regardless of your different beliefs or backgrounds, we can all still communicate and respect one another in an open and honest manner. That’s not to say we have to agree with everyone’s beliefs, but I hope people will develop that fine line of respect and honesty."[63] Davuluri also promoted STEM, or the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics to students.[64][65][66]

In a question-and-answer session after Davuluri's presentation at Central York High School in Pennsylvania, 18-year-old senior student Patrick Farves asked Davuluri to be his guest at the school's 2014 prom. Davuluri laughed in front of a cheering student body, but the school administration did not approve of the question and punished Farves with 3 days of in-school suspension.[67]

President Obama[edit]

On October 16, 2013, Davuluri met President Barack Obama through a joint meeting with the Children's Miracle Network Hospital Champions at the White House.[20][68][69] Obama previously met with Miss Americas Laura Kaeppeler (2012), Caressa Cameron (2010), and Katie Stam (2009) during similar events.[70] [71][72] In addition, in March 2008, President Bush met with Miss America Kirsten Haglund also for the same cause.[73]

Video clips and interviews[edit]

Miss America 2014[edit]


Further reading[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Miss America Nina Davuluri". Good Day New York. Retrieved December 2013. 
  2. ^ Schweibert, Ray (Jan 11, 2014). "2015 Miss America Pageant Date Set". Atlantic City Weekly. 
  3. ^ "Miss America 2014: How I Survived the Hate". Official Site: Bloomberg News. September 20, 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c d Abad-Santos, Alex (September 16, 2013). "The First Indian-American Miss America Has Racists Very, Very Confused". The Atlantic. 
  5. ^ a b c Broderick, Ryan (September 16, 2013). "A Lot Of People Are Very Upset That An Indian-American Woman Won The Miss America Pageant". BuzzFeed. 
  6. ^ a b c Judkis, Maura (September 22, 2013). "Miss America fights post-pageant racism with a beauty queen’s poise". Wall Street Journal. 
  7. ^ a b Friedman, Molly (September 27, 2013). "Newly crowned Miss America Nina Davuluri sits down with The News and says she 'wasn't surprised' by hate-filled backlash to her win". New York Daily News. 
  8. ^ a b Wischhover, Cheryl (September 26, 2013). "Is Bollywood the New Zumba?". ELLE. 
  9. ^ "Nina Davuluri IMDB". IMDB. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Montemurri, Patricia (October 29, 2013). "Miss America - her own way: Michigan girl next door evolves, winning admiration for championing diversity". Detroit Free Press. 
  11. ^ a b c Tsering, Lisa (September 16, 2013). "Indian American Nina Davuluri Wins Miss America 2014". India-West. 
  12. ^ a b Bhattacharjee, Sumit (September 17, 2013). "Miss America has roots in Vijayawada". The Hindu. 
  13. ^ Kelly, Craig (April 9, 2014). "There she is … in Bluffton:Miss America speaks on cultural diversity at Bluffton University". The Lima News. 
  14. ^ a b c Matuszak, John (September 23, 2013). "Memories of Miss America: SJ graduate Nina Davuluri is first Indian American to win the pageant; former teacher cherishes her insightful 2007 essay". The Herald Palladium. 
  15. ^ Doran, Elizabeth (September 23, 2013). "Fayetteville's Miss America contestant, Nina Davuluri, hopes to make top 15". The Post-Standard. 
  16. ^ "Miss America 2014 Biography". Miss America Organization. 
  17. ^ a b Wizner, Taylor (September 16, 2013). "Alum wins Miss America competition". The Michigan Daily. 
  18. ^ "Out & About:Nina Davuluri, Miss America 2014". Sigma Kappa Sorority. 
  19. ^ "Famous Alumni of the University of Michigan: Popular Culture". University of Michigan. 
  20. ^ a b c Milligan, Lauren (November 5, 2013). "Challenging The Miss America Stereotypes". Vogue. 
  21. ^ a b c d e f g Martin, Michael (September 18, 2013). "Is Nina Davuluri American Enough to be Miss America? (NPR Interview)". NPR. Retrieved October 5, 2013. 
  22. ^ Doran, Elizabeth (September 15, 2013). "Miss New York wins Miss America". The Post-Standard. 
  23. ^ "NINA DAVULURI CROWNED MISS NEW YORK". Miss New York. September 27, 2013. 
  24. ^ "Beauty queen: Miss America ‘fat as [bleep]‘". Page Six Magazine. September 13, 2013. 
  25. ^ a b c Calloway, AJ (September 17, 2013). "Miss America Nina Davuluri Opens Up About Racist Remarks". Extra (TV program). 
  26. ^ a b Park, Andrea (October 3, 2013). "Miss America Nina Davuluri talks weight struggles, bulimic past and racist backlash". MetroBoston. 
  27. ^ Wischhover, Cheryl (October 3, 2013). "I Worked Out With Miss America". ELLE. 
  28. ^ a b Khemlani, Anjalee (November 16, 2013). "Miss America promotes cultural dialogue amid racist stereotypes". The Press of Atlantic City. 
  29. ^ a b Editorial (September 19, 2013). "Pigment of our imagination". The Hindu. 
  30. ^ a b Rao, Mallika (September 16, 2013). "Why Miss America, Nina Davuluri, Would Never Win Pageants In South Asia'". The Huffington Post. Retrieved September 17, 2013. 
  31. ^ Jha, Rega (September 17, 2013). "Is Miss America Too Dark-Skinned To Ever Be Crowned Miss India?". BuzzFeed. 
  32. ^ Basu, Moni (September 26, 2013). "'White is beautiful:' Why India needs its own Oprah Winfrey". CNN. Retrieved October 5, 2013. 
  33. ^ a b Cavaliere, Victoria (September 16, 2013). "Miss New York is first Indian-American to win Miss America". Reuters. Retrieved September 23, 2013. 
  34. ^ a b c Tsering, Lisa (September 17, 2013). "Mahajan Choreographs Another Winning Performance". India-West. 
  35. ^ Shekhar Pandey, Kavi (November 9, 2010). "Bhangra, Bollywood and hip hop in IASA's annual cultural extravaganza". The Michigan Daily. 
  36. ^ Gandhi, Lakshmi (September 20, 2013). "Miss America’s Choreographer Nakul Dev Mahajan Tells Us How That ‘Bollywood Fusion’ Dance Came to Be". The Aerogram. 
  37. ^ a b Sen, Zinia (September 25, 2013). "Its time to rise above colours: Miss America 2014, Nina Davuluri". Times of India. 
  38. ^ Stern, Marlow (September 16, 2013). "Nina Davuluri Crowned Miss America: The First Miss America of Indian Descent". Daily Beast. 
  39. ^ "Miss America's runner-up is Miss Silicon Valley, a Stanford grad". September 16, 2013. Retrieved 2014-02-04. 
  40. ^ "Groundbreaking Miss America Winner Miss New York Takes Home Pageant Crown." ABC News, September 16, 2013
  41. ^ Botelho, Greg (September 19, 2013). "First Miss America of Indian descent embraces discussion on diversity". CNN. 
  42. ^ Pal, Shalmali (October 8, 2013). "The Doctor Wore Diamante". MedPage Today. 
  43. ^ a b Greenhouse, Emily (September 20, 2013). "COMBATTING TWITTER HATE WITH TWITTER HATE". The New Yorker. 
  44. ^ Stuart, Tessa (September 16, 2013). "Fox Host Todd Starnes Outraged That Indian-American Nina Davuluri Won Miss America". The Village Voice. 
  45. ^ a b Keeler in the Morning (October 2, 2013). "[AUDIO] Miss America on Keeler in the Morning". WIBX950 AM. Retrieved October 2, 2013. 
  46. ^ Vail, Theresa (September 19, 2013). "Miss America Part 1". Theresa Vail's Blog: Miss Outdoor Girl. 
  47. ^ Gould, Joe (September 30, 2013). "Miss Kansas: 'Raise hell' about sexual harassment". Army Times. 
  48. ^ Israel, Steve (September 30, 2013). "Do not attack Miss America". TimesLedger Newspapers. Retrieved September 30, 2013. 
  49. ^ Takei, George (September 16, 2013). "George Takei's Facebook Page". Facebook. 
  50. ^ St. Clair, Katy (September 17, 2013). "Racism reigns after Indian woman crowned Miss America". The San Francisco Examiner. 
  51. ^ "After Defending Miss America From Racial Comments, George Takei Meets Nina Davuluri For First Time". ABC News. September 18, 2013. 
  52. ^ Mascarenhas, Roland (October 4, 2013). "Opinion: Why Nina Davuluri matters". The Vancouver Sun. 
  53. ^ Alumit, Noel (September 19, 2013). "The First Asian American Miss America Responds to the Hate". Huffington Post. Retrieved September 27, 2013. 
  54. ^ "Miss America:People & Events: Breaking the Color Line at the Pageant (American Experience)". PBS. January 27, 2002. 
  55. ^ a b Stern, Marlow (September 21, 2013). "Vanessa Williams, the First Black Miss America, On Nina Davuluri and Racism". The Daily Beast. 
  56. ^ a b c d "Vanessa on Valentine’s Day:The most successful Miss America in the entertainment world, Vanessa Williams brings her love of the stage to Caesars on Feb. 14.". Atlantic City Weekly. 2014-02-12. 
  57. ^ Jha, Lalit K (September 17, 2013). "Nina Davuluri's win similar to Bess Myerson's: US lawmaker". Daily News and Analysis. 
  58. ^ "ADL Deeply Troubled by Hateful Messages Labeling Newly Crowned Miss America ‘A Foreigner’". ADL Press Release. September 16, 2013. 
  59. ^ Doran, Elizabeth (September 17, 2013). "Nina Davuluri generates highest media demand in Miss America history; may go to India". The Post-Standard. 
  60. ^ a b James, Lorraine (Feb 10, 2014). "JAMES: Miss America’s wisdom". Yale Daily News. 
  61. ^ "Miss America Organization Launches Social Media Campaign To Promote The Celebration of Diversity Through Cultural Competency". Miss America Press Release. Retrieved October 2, 2013. 
  62. ^ a b Dixon, Blake (February 5, 2014). "Miss America talks cultural awareness". Yale Daily News. 
  63. ^ Harris, Aleesha (October 30, 2013). "Miss America Nina Davuluri talks style, heritage and facing off against discrimination". Vancouver Sun. 
  64. ^ "Miss America visits Atlantic City H.S. to discuss STEM education, diversity". Press of Atlantic City. January 15, 2014. 
  65. ^ "Miss America emphasizes importance of science and technology careers". Delaware County Daily. Feb 13, 2014. 
  66. ^ "Seeing is Believing: Role Models Inspire Student Achievement". Huffington Post. March 20, 2014. 
  67. ^ "Teen suspended for asking Miss America to prom". Huffington Post. 2014-04-18. Retrieved 2014-04-18. 
  68. ^ "Miss America 2014 Nina Davuluri Meets President Barack Obama at the White House for the Annual Children's Miracle Network Hospitals Celebration". Miss America. October 16, 2013. 
  69. ^ "Here's What You Missed During the Shutdown:Welcoming Miss America". The White House. October 18, 2013. 
  70. ^ "Miss America 2012 Laura Kaeppeler Meets President Barack Obama at the White House for the Annual Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Celebration". Miss America. September 19, 2012. 
  71. ^ "Miss America 2010 Caressa Cameron Joins Children's Miracle Network to Meet with President Obama". Miss America. June 11, 2010. 
  72. ^ "Miss America 2009 Katie Stam Joins Children's Miracle Network to Meet with President Obama". Miss America. March 25, 2009. 
  73. ^ "Miss America 2008 Kirsten Haglund Meets President George W. Bush with the Children from Champions Across America". Miss America. March 18, 2008. 

External links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Mallory Hagan
Miss America
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Shannon Oliver
Miss New York
Succeeded by
Amanda Mason