Miss America Nina Davuluri On Battling Stereotypes

4 comments

em1Photo: Courtesy of Matt Boyd Photography.
When you become Miss America, it's time to buckle up and get ready for the year of a lifetime. But, for Nina Davuluri, taking the crown hasn't been a complete bouquet of roses. Just moments after accepting the 2014 title, the gorgeous beauty received some serious social media backlash, a reaction that the first Indian Miss America says did not come as a surprise.

We caught up with Davuluri on her whirlwind tour with Macy's to celebrate Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month and talk about how she beat the backlash and squashed the stereotypes that are associated with that glittering headpiece.

What actions do you think we all need to take in order to satisfy your platform of Diversity Through Cultural Competency?
"To first and foremost have an open mind. With an open mind, we can all find a way to communicate with one another in an open and honest manner."

How do you feel your role, as the first Indian Miss America, has inspired Indian women?
"I hope they feel inspired to embrace their culture, but also find a healthy balance between cultures. If there is anything I've learned through my journey, it's that assimilation has to happen from both sides."

Were you surprised at some of the negative feedback you received after you took the crown?
"Unfortunately, no. However, it gave me a megaphone to really bring my platform in the spotlight and spark a positive conversation."

We think it's great that you took your experience from dealing with negative social media backlash to start the #circlesofunity campaign. What type of responses/open conversations have you been seeing as a result of it?
"So many! I've had students make videos about cultural awareness, pictures of people dressed in native clothing from their countries, and even interracial couples. It's been awesome. And, I always try to retweet and respond, so keep them coming!"

On stage at the competition, you said that "the girl next door is evolving." What do you mean by that?
"Well, Miss America has always been viewed as the girl next door. And, I grew up feeling like I could never be in this role because I didn't look like the 'stereotypical' Miss America. My goal for this organization was to reach out to a new demographic of young women that is representative of America today. It was really about reaching out to that young girl who was watching the competition that night — for her to finally be able to say, 'Wow, this year Miss America looks like me. And, I don't have to fit a stereotype or mold to be successful.'"

What's been one of your most memorable moments since taking the crown?
"Definitely meeting with President Obama in the Oval Office. I think that was the moment my parents thought I had a legit job!"
op-2Photo: Courtesy of Bruce Boyajian/The Miss America Organization.
You lost 55 pounds before taking the crown. How do you stay healthy, especially with all the pressure and stress you've been under the past year.
"It's been tough! I try to work out two-to-three times per week because my schedule really doesn't allow for much more than that. But, I'm also really mindful of what I eat. The healthier I eat, the better I feel and the more energy I have. And, for this job, energy is a essential!"

Can you share any beauty tips for looking so fresh and fabulous on the go?
"Makeup remover wipes — the hydrating kind. Since I'm on a plane every other day, I always keep them in my carry on and use them before and after the flight. It keeps my skin fresh and hydrated. Plus, for me, traveling with makeup on is one of the worst feelings, so I like to have a clean face."

Of the plethora of gowns and ensembles you've worn over the past year, what is one of your favorites?
"Definitely the yellow dress — I helped design it. My favorite Disney princess is Belle from Beauty and the Beast, so I'd say my dress was a more grown-up, sexy version of Belle. I loved it!"

Want to meet Nina? She'll be at Macy's Queen Center on May 24 and Macy's Union Square on May 28. Click here for more information.