Published September 16, 2013
The new Miss America made history on Sunday night when she became the first contestant of Indian heritage to win the highly sought after crown, but of course, this being the Miss America pageant, her success was not without controversy!
Nina Davuluri’s victory led to overwhelming support on social media, interspersed with some negative comments from watchers upset that someone of Indian heritage had won the pageant. After the announcement was made, some users tweeted that Davuluri was not “American enough” to win the title while others went as far as to say she “looks like a terrorist.”
But the 24-year-old native of Syracuse, N.Y., brushed those comments aside. "I have to rise above that," she said. "I always viewed myself as first and foremost American."
Many users agreed, coming to the newly crowned Miss America’s defense.
Congrats to the new #MissAmerica! A true, born in New York American!! And, to the ignorant & racist people out there, shame on you!!— anastacia mccleskey (@AnastaciaMcC) September 16, 2013
In fact, most of the users criticizing Davuluri were more concerned with a controversial comment she reportedly made about the former Miss America last week. According to the New York Post, Davuluri, was allegedly tape-recorded blasting Miss America Mallory Hagan as “fat as [bleep].”
So the girl that won #MissAmerica is the same girl that called Miss America fat? Is that an example we want to teach our kids..— brittany crawford (@bbrittttt) September 16, 2013
Still, many were impressed with the new Miss America. Davuluri 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. The Miss America Organization will compensate Hagan for her shortened reign.
Moments after winning, 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 news conference after winning the crown. "I'm thankful there are children watching at home who can finally relate to a new Miss America."
Davuluri's pageant platform was "celebrating diversity through cultural competency." Her talent routine was a Bollywood fusion dance.
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 Vege 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."
Asked about her granddaughter appearing in a bikini, given the conservative attitudes about such things in India, Koteshwaramma said: "I haven't seen any such thing. This must be all part of the competition."
Davuluri had planned to go to the scene of a devastating boardwalk fire in the New Jersey communities of Seaside Park and Seaside Heights on Monday afternoon. But pageant officials canceled 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.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.