Miss America crowns first Indian American winner, Nina Davuluri


Miss America 2014 was crowned Sunday night in Atlantic City, N.J.: She’s Nina Davuluri, the first Indian American to take the crown.

It was the second year in a row that a young woman from New York was named Miss America.

Davuluri, 24, competed in outfits including an animal-print bikini (pardon us, swimsuit) and a bright yellow evening gown that she described as “the more sexy version” of Belle’s dress in “Beauty and the Beast.” In the talent portion of the evening, she delivered a Bollywood-style dance.

The “interviews” of the top five finalists -- one question each -- gave rise to varied responses, as the questions were all over the map. Judge Mario Cantone of “Sex and the City” fame asked Miss Oklahoma what she thought of Miley Cyrus’ recent twerk-filled VMAs performance, and judge Lance Bass of N*SYNC asked Miss Minnesota whether political candidates were carrying “Stand By Your Man” too far by supporting their spouses.


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Violinist Joshua Bell asked Miss California if it was the United States’ responsibility to punish Syria for using chemical weapons on its own people; TV chef Carla Hall quizzed Miss New York about what message was sent by Julie Chen’s revelation she’d had plastic surgery to look less Asian, to advance her career; and Miss America 2005 Deidre Downs Gunn asked Miss Florida about what the country should do about minorities having disproportionately low income and disproportionately high rates of unemployment and incarceration.

Miss Florida’s answer was actually cut off for time; personally, we’d rather have had the question about twerking.

Unfortunately, Davuluri’s win was not celebrated by all, with some users of social media attacking her color, accusing her of not being an American and of being a Muslim (she is American; she is not a Muslim). The newly crowned queen told the Associated Press she would “rise above” such detractors.

“I’m so happy this organization has embraced diversity,” she told the AP. “I’m thankful there are children watching at home who can finally relate to a new Miss America.

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“I have to rise above that. I always viewed myself as first and foremost American.”

Nonetheless, the negative reaction drew comment from the Anti-Defamation League, which compared the situation to 1945, the year a Jewish woman first won the contest.

“It is deeply troubling that the crowning of the first woman of Indian descent to win the Miss America pageant -- an achievement to be celebrated -- has been greeted with a series of racist and hate-filled messages on Twitter and other social media. ... ,” said Abraham H. Foxman, the ADL’s national director. “The reaction in some quarters to the crowning of Ms. Davuluri is a reminder of how much work remains to be done in this country to ensure that America remains no place for hate. ...”

“Ms. Davuluri’s platform of ‘celebrating diversity through cultural competency’ is a message that all Americans and people of good will should strive to emulate,” he said.

The top five finished as follows: fourth runner-up Rebecca Yeh (Minnesota), third runner-up Myrrhanda Jones: (Florida), second runner-up Kelsey Griswold (Oklahoma), first runner-up Crystal Lee (California) and of course Miss America, going to Davuluri. Each won a scholarship, ranging from $10,000 to $50,000.

Davuluri was headed Monday afternoon to New Jersey’s storm- and fire-stricken Seaside Park and Seaside Heights to support the reconstruction efforts, according to the AP.



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