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Miss New York, Nina Davuluri wins the Miss America pageant / Jezebel [photo]
Miss New York Nina Davuluri wins the Miss America pageant / Jezebel [photo]

I can’t remember the last time I watched the Miss America pageant. As a child I used to lay on the floor in front of the TV, chin in my hands, watching excitedly as the 53 women vied for the coveted bejeweled crown.

Then somewhere between childhood innocence and adolescent anger, the feminist in me reared its ugly head and flatly refused to watch any of these so-called beauty contests. (Disclaimer: I still have interest in Miss Universe, as I find it fascinating to see all the beautiful people from all parts of the world.)

So it came as no surprise that, last week, when a preview for this year’s competition appeared on TV, I laughed to myself and promised I wouldn’t watch—again. I also laughed because I saw that Chris Harrison (of The Bachelor fame) would be co-hosting. To be fair, I do watch The Bachelor/Bachelorette, even though we have a nickname for Chris (Hint: It starts with “P” and rhymes with “wimp”).

But I digress.

What did come as a surprise, however, was reading yesterday in the news (I realize I must be the last to know) that an Indian-American contestant had won the title.

Her name is Nina Davuluri, and her parents hail from the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. Nina is from Syracuse, and entered the competition representing her home state of New York. Nina’s win unleashed a hostile and racist stream of comments on Twitter, calling her “Muslim”, “Arab”, and accusing her of having terrorist links.

[Insert eyeroll here.]

Nina, who is classically trained in Bharatanatyam and performed a dance during the talent portion, reportedly brushed off the comments, saying that first and foremost, she considers herself American.

I read this online with Peanut perched on my knee, and let my mind wander. I am also a first-generation Indian American.

During my lifetime so far, I have only begun to see a shift in the Indian population in the US, from a minority status, known only for running convenience stores and driving taxis, to full-on ubiquity:  running corporations and driving sales, to saving lives, starring in movies and television, and holding public office. Analysts predict that in about 30 years, Caucasians will no longer be the majority demographic.

And by the time my daughters are my age now, that word minority will most likely be in the dumpster—for them, at least.


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  3. The uproar this has in India is also pretty amusing! Comments ranging from , she would not stand a chance in India…( references to the color of the skin )…and frankly it was too hyped for nothing!
    The discrimination within the country by and large talks about all South Indians Madrasis without respecting any other cultural sentiment…so , this is a deep rooted seed in everyone’s head….and sometimes I wonder if there is an end to all this! Nothing will change unless people respect Individuals for who they are and not from where they come or the color of the skin!

    • Yeah! I vaguely saw a headline about that, but never read the story…haters gonna hate I guess!

      I always found it interesting that white people wish to be “tan” while darker-skinned folks wish to be “lighter”. And it’s definitely true that she wouldn’t have won a pageant in India. While she isn’t as stunning as some other Indian women like Esha Deol or Sridevi, she is still pretty, and clearly she did everything right if she won the crown.

      I don’t think there will be an end…human beings will always harbor an “Us vs Them” mentality based on whatever stupid reason.


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