This last week marked the repeat of the annual tradition of crowning a talented and beautiful young woman ‘Miss America.’ This year’s winner is the 24 year-old, New York state born and raised Nina Davuluri. Despite missing her cue during the talent portion of the competition, where she and another contestant briefly switched places, she still managed to wow the audience and the judges with her performance. Ms. Davuluri performed a Bollywood inspired dance number, which drew on her many years of training and practice as an artist in the traditional styles of Kuchipudi and Bharatanatyam dancing. She was able to pursue this interest through her regular visits to her parents’ home country of India, and was even fortunate enough to have studied under the famous Bollywood choreographer Nakul Dev Mahajan, well-known for his work on the program ‘So You Think You Can Dance.’
Ms. Davuluri is no novice to being a beauty queen, as she has previously competed for the title of Miss Teen America where she was runner up to Brittany Monico. There were also unsubstantiated rumors that she and the previous Miss America, Mallory Hagan, were trading barbed comments. However, speculation that beauty competitions become as verbally heated as they are stylistically is not uncommon and there were no signs of hostility during the show.
Ms. Davuluri is also much more than just a pretty face. She has had a very illustrious academic career and, although she spent the last year preparing to compete in the Miss America Pageant, she hopes to continue studying to become a cardiologist. She is also a major sci-fi fan and a self-proclaimed ‘nerd.’ Of course, the young ladies who are crowned Miss America have a number of duties during their tenure that can keep them quite busy, but they all receive a scholarship to attend a university or academic institution of their choice. As Ms. Davuluri has already graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in Cognitive Science, she will likely apply the scholarship to her later studies in pursuit of her medical degree.
However, there was an unfortunate shadow cast over Ms. Davuluri’s success this last Sunday. A number of individuals, many commenting simultaneously with this weekend’s broadcast of the pageant, made racist comments against Ms. Davuluri shortly after her crowning. Ms. Davuluri has appeared to have not let these comments tarnish her victory and a variety of people, from Twitter commenters to Stephen Colbert, have come out in support of her.