Twenty-four-year-old Miss New York Nina Davuluri on Monday became the first contestant of Indian-origin to win the prestigious Miss America pageant after wooing the judges with a Bollywood fusion dance.
Nina, who aspires to become a physician like her father, will earn at least USD 50,000 in scholarships.
She was crowned Miss America during an event held in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
“I’m so happy this organisation has embraced diversity,” she said in her first press conference after winning the crown.
“I’m thankful there are children watching at home who can finally relate to a new Miss America.”
Her pageant platform was “celebrating diversity through cultural competency” and Davuluri said she’s had to dispel a lot of misconceptions about her culture through the years, such as whether her parents will arrange a marriage for her.
She said she plans to represent her roots and push her platform of diversity in her new role.
“I’m most excited to promote my platform, I was the first Indian Miss New York and I’m so proud to be the first Indian Miss America,” she said tearfully.
Davuluri, in a canary-yellow evening gown, walked the runway after being named Miss America, waving and brushing away tears of joy.
Fifty three gorgeous women from as many states participated in the competition. Miss California Crystal Lee was the runner-up.
Miss Oklahoma Kesley Griswold came in third place.
Contestants were judged on evening gowns, lifestyle/fitness, talent, a personal interview and an on-stage question. Davuluri is the second consecutive Miss New York to win the Miss America crown, succeeding Mallory Hagan.
She was asked about the wisdom of TV anchor getting plastic surgery on her eyes to alter her appearance. Davuluri said she’s against plastic surgery, but said people should make their own choice but be confident in their appearances.
She showcased a classical Bollywood fusion dance piece as her talent.
Davuluri studied at St. Joseph High School and University of Michigan. Her scholastic honours include Dean’s List; Michigan Merit Award; National Honour Society She competed on the platform issue of “Celebrating Diversity through Cultural Competency” showcasing her talent of “Classical Bollywood Fusion,” according to Miss America organisation.
Earlier, after a night of big numbers, endless crowd cheering, swimsuit strutting, dancing, singing, the 53 Miss America contestants representing 50 states, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands were narrowed down to one winner, according to USA Today.
The 53 contestants introduced themselves in a taped segment with those quippy catchphrases, including “Listening to your phone calls from the Nation’s Capital. Just kidding! I’m Miss District of Columbia, Bindhu Pamarthi.”
The nearly 100-year-old pageant which debuted in 1921 was televised live by ABC, which picked up the contest again in 2011 after dropping it in 2004 because of a steep ratings decline.
The judges were 2004 Miss America winner Deidre Downs Gunn, the New York Knicks’ Amar’e Stoudemire, Lance Bass from the boy band ‘N Sync, comedian Mario Cantone, violinist Joshua Bell and television chef Carla Hall. (Agencies)