“I always viewed myself as first and foremost American,” says recently-crowned Miss America, Nina Davuluri, in an Associated Press interview. The New Yorker who won this year’s pageant has become a lightning rod for negative backlash because of her Indian descent.
“I’m so happy this organization has embraced diversity,” she says, rising above the outrage which has been expressed mostly over social media. Davuluri’s pageant platform is labeled, “celebrating diversity through cultural competency,” which seems particularly appropriate in light of the peanut gallery commentary, much of which has reportedly been removed from social media forums. The Miss New York site says the platform originates from Davuluri's heritage, and lists her as an advocate of healthy lifestyles considering her personal battle with weight. Weight and bulimia struggles and false reports of uncongenial comments were other topics of criticism.
This morning, Davuluri made the rounds, starting with a toe-dip into the Atlantic and a Good Morning America interview, visiting the Freedom Tower and National September 11 Memorial in New York City, and sending condolences to the victims and their families of today’s Navy Yard attack.
The pageant, which has suffered from its own negative commentary on its relevance and struggled in the ratings races, drew its largest audience since 2004. Placed opposite powerhouse football broadcasts, the weekend broadcast increased its overall audience for the second straight year on ABC, especially during the broadcast adding 8.3 million viewers in its last 30 minutes.
Davuluri is a native of New York, growing up and still residing in Fayetteville. Her family immigrated to the US from India three decades ago. Davuluri is quoted on the Miss New York site as saying, "Diversity is a rich and endless source of experience, language, custom and tradition that enhances our nation and makes us unique. However, we fall behind due to a lack of understanding the diversity that exists in our country—an issue that persists at the local, state, and national levels. This is precisely the reason I chose to advocate for this issue as Miss New York 2013," and presumably now as Miss America 2014.[Image via Miss America official website.]