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Diversity in Miss America Pageant

By Kelly Tansor, Copy Editor (ktanso2@uic.edu)

Earlier this month a new Miss America was crowned.  Nina Davuluri is a 24-year-old woman born and raised in New York. Her parents came to America from India in 1981.

That’s right, folks – Miss America is of Indian descent.

Why should this be a problem?  After all, she is from New York.  Aside from living with her grandmother and aunt in India when she was six-months-old until she was two-and-a-half-years-old, she has lived in America all her life.  She lived in Oklahoma for some time and attended high school in Michigan, where she played varsity tennis, played in band, and was a cheerleader.  She graduated from the University of Michigan with a B.S. in Brain, Behavior, & Cognitive Science, and she hopes to attend medical school and be a physician, like her father.  On top of that, she was a member of Sigma Kappa and received many awards including Dean’s List and the National Honor Society Award.  Pretty impressive!

In the Miss America pageant, Davuluri wowed the judges with her fusion of Bollywood and Indian classical dance, something she grew up studying, as part of her “celebrating diversity through cultural competency” platform.  She struggled with bulimia in the past, but since then has gained 60 pounds and maintains a beautiful body.  However, when she won, no one saw her talent, her studies, or her appearance.

All they saw was an Indian woman wearing the Miss America crown.

Because the Internet is a thing, many viewers were quick to post their thoughts and feelings on the matter online.  Let’s go through a few of my favorites

“Miss America? You mean Miss 7-11”

“Well they just picked a Muslim for Miss America. That must’ve made Obama happy. Maybe he had a vote”

Alright, she is Hindu and Obama had nothing to do with it, but let’s continue…

”9/11 was 4 days ago and she gets miss America?”

“Miss America right now or miss Al Qaeda?”

Even Todd Starnes, host of Fox News and Commentary, had this to say:

“The liberal Miss America judges won’t say this – but Miss Kansas lost because she actually represented American values. #missamerica.”

I fail to see how Nina Davuluri is any less American than previous Miss America winners.  Davuluri is a huge promoter of diversity, as seen in her Bollywood dance during the pageant.  America nowadays is seen as a melting pot – a place where people of multiple backgrounds can prosper.  Anyone can come to America from just about any country or background, start their lives here, and use America’s resources in order to start from the bottom and work their way up in life.  Isn’t that the American dream?

Isn’t that what Davuluri is doing?

Davuluri is proud to be the first Indian Miss America.  She expected the backlash since she received the same remarks when she won Miss New York.  She hopes her Miss America win lets young girls know that “regardless of race, their socioeconomic status, their religion that anyone can become not only Miss America, but anything.”

Continuing her love of diversity, Davuluri has started a social media campaign called #CirclesOfUnity so Twitter users can share their thoughts and feelings about culture awareness.

In a day and age where diversity is all around us, it is a shame that we are still plagued with racism and ignorance just because the typical blonde white girl did not win a pageant.  Thankfully, for every negative remark made about Nina Davuluri, there are plenty of others praising her.  Davuluri is rising above the hate and reaching out to others in an effort to inspire young girls to achieve their dreams and promote diversity in America.

THAT, my friends, is the American dream.

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