The South Asian Life & Times - SALT   
  Spring 2014          



 Spring 2014


Editor's Note

 Arctic to Antarctic
 - Overland

  Great Himalaya Trail 

India Art Fair 2014

 Nirav Modi 

 Magic of Sorcars

 Tino Sehgal

  Nina Davuluri

 Ravindra Salve

 Threatened Tribes

 Tribal Victories 2013

 - Dongria Kondh

 - Jarawas

 - Soliga

 Indian Painting


 And the Mountains

 A God in Every Stone

 Beloved Strangers

 I Am Malala 












   about us              back-issues           contact us         search             data bank


  craft shop

print gallery

 Nina Davuluri

Nina Davuluri became the first Miss America of Indian descent. Her historic win also introduced Bollywood dance into a contest that, up until 60 years ago, required contestants to be in "good health and of the white race."

Twenty-four-year-old Nina Davuluri from Syracuse was crowned Miss America 2014 in Atlantic City in September 2013. She was also Miss New York 2013 and is the first woman of Indian descent to win both titles. Never before has Miss America generated so much interest among media and public – Nina is perhaps one of the most popular Miss Americas in years. The 92-year-old pageant has, in the near past, been criticized as stagnant and outdated. But no longer. “Nina has inspired more interest than any Miss America in a long time.” (It is the Donald Trump-owned Miss USA pageant, not Miss America that produces a competitor for Miss Universe.)

She charmed the judges with her grace and for the talent part of the show, Davuluri performed a fusion of Bharat Natyam and a Bollywood dance routine, wowing the audience who gave her a thunderous standing ovation. Wearing a glittering crimson and turquoise lehnga choli outfit, and dancing barefoot with a set of ghungroos (anklet bells), Nina gave the kind of performance the pageant has rarely seen.

Davuluri’s win signifies mainstream acceptance of second-generation Indian-Americans – it carries a special significance. At her press conference, Nina remarked "I'm so happy this organization has embraced diversity. I'm thankful there are children watching at home who can finally relate to a new Miss America.”

But not everyone appreciated the history she was making. Negative comments on social media made headlines after her win. Nina says she expected some of that reaction - she had faced a similar situation when she won Miss New York. She, however, stumped the onslaught of racist jokes that followed her title, with poise and dignity. She commented, with her characteristic graciousness, “A lot of the remarks weren’t meant to be malicious, but just due to the fact of ignorance.”

The relevance of beauty pageants is beginning to change. Nina’s platform, very aptly, is called “Celebrating Diversity Through Cultural Competency.” She has also launched “Circles of Unity,” a social-media campaign to promote multiculturalism and civil discourse. Having grown up in the US with so many stereotypes, she knew she wanted to advocate multiculturalism.

Nina graduated from the University of Michigan, where she earned a degree in behaviour and cognitive science. She was a Dean’s List and National Honor Society student at U of M. She is an aspiring physician – and hopes to pursue her medical studies at SUNY Upstate - and is planning on becoming a cardiologist. Her older sister, Meena, is a third-year medical student and her father works as an obstetrician/gynaecologist in New York.

From a very traditional Telugu-speaking Indian family, Nina found it difficult to speak to her parents, who had an arranged marriage, about the gentleman she had been dating for a year-and-a-half.

Nina hopes to travel to India during her reign – her grandparents live in Vijaywada, Andhra Pradesh and she is no stranger to the city.  She learnt Kuchipudi and Bharat Natyam dances as part of her plan to pursue the dream of becoming Miss America.

She is interested in connecting with a beauty campaign called Dark Is Beautiful.’ “It would be a wonderful message for younger girls, that regardless of how dark or light they are, it doesn’t have to matter.”



Read the entire article in the print edition of The South Asian Life & Times



Copyright © 2000 - 2014 []. Intellectual Property. All rights reserved.