Miss America Pageant Crowns Their First Indian-American Winner

On Sunday night, for the first time since its inception in 1921, the Miss America pageant crowned an Indian-American woman the winner. (Fun fact: The pageant was initially created as a way to extend the Atlantic City, N.J. tourism season for an extra weekend.) 24-year-old Nina Davuluri, a Syracuse, NY native with dreams of being a doctor, seemed to serendipitously predict her win during the competition:

“Miss America is evolving,” she said. “And she’s not going to look the same anymore.”

(Side note: She’s also the second consecutive Miss New York to win. HOLLER!) Over the course of the renowned beauty pageant’s history, there have been seven black Miss America’s (starting with Vanessa Williams in 1983), but the rest have all been caucasian. And in addition to Davuluri’s win, this year’s runner-up, Miss California Crystal Lee, is Chinese-American.

Amardeep Singh, an Indian professor of English, said the fact that Divuluri considered herself a contender in the first place spoke to the massive cultural significance of her win.

“It’s a relatively new phenomenon that Indian-American women would even think of themselves as potentially having a chance,” Singh said. “It’s the way things are changing in America. The Indian community is becoming more comfortable in its skin.”

Davuluri, whose platform was “celebrating diversity through cultural competency” and wowed the judges with her Bollywood dance performance, will be using the $50,000 scholarship she won as a part of the pageant title to apply to medical school. Pretty AND smart AND Indian-American? You’ve come a long way, Miss America. The times they are a-changin’!

“I’m so happy this organization has embraced diversity,” Davuluri said in her first official press conference. “I’m thankful there are children watching at home who can finally relate to a new Miss America.”

Featured image via NPR

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