ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – Moments after winning the 2014 Miss America crown, Nina Davuluri described how delighted she is that the nearly century-old pageant sees beauty and talent of all kinds.
The 24-year-old Miss New York is the first contestant of Indian heritage to become Miss America; her talent routine was a Bollywood fusion dance.
“I’m so happy this organization has embraced diversity,” she said in her first press conference after winning the crown in Atlantic City, N.J.. Her pageant platform was “celebrating diversity through cultural competency.”
The native of Syracuse, N.Y., wants to be a doctor and is applying to medical school, with the help of a $50,000 scholarship she won as part of the pageant title.
She is the second consecutive Miss New York to win the Miss America crown, succeeding Mallory Hagan, who was selected in January when the pageant was still held in Las Vegas. The Miss America Organization will compensate Hagan for her shortened reign.
Davuluri’s victory led to some negative comments on Twitter from users upset that someone of Indian heritage had won the pageant. She brushed those aside. “I have to rise above that,” she said. “I always viewed myself as first and foremost American.”
Her grandmother told The Associated Press that she cried when she saw the news on television. “I am very, very happy for the girl. It was her dream and it was fulfilled,” 89-year-old V. Koteshwaramma said by phone from her home in the city of Vijaywada in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.
First runner-up was Miss California, Crystal Lee. Other top 5 finalists included Miss Minnesota, Rebecca Yeh, Miss Florida, Myrrhanda Jones, and Miss Oklahoma, Kelsey Griswold. Miss Kansas, Theresa Vail, the Army sergeant who was believed to have been the first Miss America contestant to openly display tattoos, won a nationwide “America’s Choice” vote to advance as a semi-finalist, but failed to make it into the Top 10.