New Miss America: 'First and foremost American'
Miss America 2014 Nina Davuluri walks on the beach during the traditional dipping of the toes in the Atlantic Ocean the morning after being crowned Miss America, Monday, Sept. 16, 2013, in Atlantic City, N.J. Davuluri represented New York. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. (AP) — Nina Davuluri isn't the first Miss America of color. She's not even the first Asian-American to wear the crown. But her victory has clearly struck a chord in some quarters.
At a news conference held after her name was announced Sunday night, the first question was about a slew of social media users apparently upset that someone of Indian heritage had won. Some tweets called her Arab and a terrorist.
"I have to rise above that," said Davuluri, who competed as Miss New York. "I always viewed myself as first and foremost American."
She said she's delighted that the nearly century-old pageant sees beauty and talent of all kinds.
"I'm so happy this organization has embraced diversity," she said. "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." Her talent routine was a Bollywood fusion dance.
89-year-old Vege Koteshwaramma, looks at the photograph of her granddaughter Nina Davuluri, the first contestant of Indian origin to become Miss America, center on laptop screen, in Vijaywada, 280 kilometers (174 miles) east of Hyderabad, India, Monday, Sept. 16, 2013. (AP Photo)
Davuluri, a 24-year-old native of Syracuse, N.Y., 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's the second consecutive Miss New York to win the Miss America crown, succeeding Mallory Hagan, who was selected in January.
Davuluri's grandmother said 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 Vijaywada, in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.
There are numerous doctors in the family, in the U.S. and India, she said, and 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 in India, Koteshwaramma said: "I haven't seen any such thing. This must be all part of the competition."