Twenty-four-year-old Miss New York Nina Davuluri on Sunday became the first contestant of Indian-origin to win the prestigious Miss America pageant after wooing judges with a Bollywood fusion dance.
Nina, who aspires to become a physician like her father, will earn at least $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 press conference after winning the crown. “I’m thankful there are children watching at home who can finally relate to a new Miss America. 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.
Nina, in a canary-yellow evening gown, walked the runway after being named Miss America, waving and brushing away tears of joy. Fifty three women from as many states participated in the competition.
Contestants were judged on evening gowns, lifestyle/fitness, talent, a personal interview and an on-stage question. Nina had formal training in Indian dance for the past 15 years, including summers in India. She struggled with bulimia, an eating disorder, and weight problem, and lost 30 kilos prior to becoming Miss New York. She was born in Syracuse, but moved to Oklahoma at age four and then to Michigan at 10. Six years ago, her family moved to Fayetteville, where her dad Dhanakoteswara Rao Chowdary is an obstetrician/gynaecologist affiliated with St Joseph’s Hospital. She has a degree from the University of Michigan in brain behaviour and cognitive science.
Her mother Sheela Rajani, a web designer, hails from Vijayawada where her relatives were thrilled to learn of her victory.
Her grandmother V Koteswaramma, a well-known educationist and director of Montessori Educational Institutions, said, “It is a great moment for my family. The girl has made us proud.”
Her aunt A Sasibala, a gynaecologist, told Express, “I have no words to describe my feelings. Nina is intelligent and clever.” According to her, Nina visits her grandmother in Vijayawada every year.
The girl is well-versed in Kuchipudi, piano, western dance and plays tennis. She could not visit Vijayawada this Summer as she was busy preparing for the beauty contest.
(with inputs from PTI)