Miss America Nina Davuluri says she’ll ‘rise above’ hate-filled, racist Twitter comments
Story by Associated Press
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — The selection of a women of Indian heritage as the new Miss America has ignited a storm of controversy after hate-filled, racist messages were posted on Twitter.
Moments after winning the 2014 crown, Nina Davuluri described how delighted she is that the nearly century-old pageant sees beauty and talent of all kinds.
"I'm so happy this organization has embraced diversity," she said in her first press conference after winning the crown in Atlantic City, New Jersey's Boardwalk Hall. "I'm thankful there are children watching at home who can finally relate to a new Miss America."
But the 24-year-old was forced to dive headfirst into the challenges of becoming the first American of Indian heritage to win the pageant after social media users voiced their displeasure.
"I have to rise above that," said Davuluri. "I always viewed myself as first and foremost American."
Many of the tweets — and apparently whole Twitter accounts in some instances — have been deleted after various media outlets, including Buzzfeed and the Daily Mail,posted scathing compilations of offensive comments about Davuluri.
The native of Syracuse, New York was attacked by Twitter posters for not being "American" and called a "terrorist."
She is is the second Asian-American winner, after Angela Perez-Baraquio, who is of Filipino descent, and won in 2001.
Davuluri's pageant platform was "celebrating diversity through cultural competency." Her talent routine was a Bollywood fusion dance.
Davuluri wants to be a doctor, and is applying to medical school, with the help of a US$50,000 scholarship she won as part of the pageant title.
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.
She said there are numerous doctors in the family, both in the U.S. and India, and that if her granddaughter wants to become one "I am sure she will do it."
Davuluri had planned to go to the scene of a devastating boardwalk fire in the New Jersey communities of Seaside Park and Seaside Heights Monday afternoon. But pageant officials cancelled that visit after learning that Gov. Chris Christie was making cabinet officials available at that same time to business owners victimized by the fire.
Davuluri will visit at an unscheduled future date, pageant officials said early Monday.
She will still make the traditional frolic in the Atlantic City surf Monday morning.
Her 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.
In the run-up to the pageant, much attention was given to Miss Kansas, Theresa Vail, the Army sergeant who was believed to have been the first Miss America contestant to openly display tattoos. She has the Serenity Prayer on her rib cage, and a smaller military insignia on the back of one shoulder.
Vail won a nationwide "America's Choice" vote to advance as a semi-finalist, but failed to make it into the Top 10.
In a Twitter message Sunday before the finals began, Vail wrote: "Win or not tonight, I have accomplished what I set out to do. I have empowered women. I have opened eyes."
Jones made it into the top 5 wearing a bedazzled knee brace. She tore knee ligaments Thursday while rehearsing her baton-twirling routine, which she executed flawlessly Sunday night.
The pageant had pitted 53 contestants — one from each state, plus Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands — in swimsuit, evening gown, talent and interview competitions.
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