Miss America – Making Indian Dreams Come True


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Nina Davuluri is Miss America 2014

Nina Davuluri is Miss America 2014


Nina Davuluri – Miss America 2014


Miss America – is Indian!

This breaking news seems to have sent waves of joy and also waves of shock across the Internet. Nina Davuluri, 24, of Syracuse, New York, has been crowned Miss America 2014 in Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall. She is the first contestant of Indian descent to win the title.

A graduate of University of Michigan, she did all the right desi things – made the Dean’s list, bagged the Michigan Merit Award and was also in the National Honor Society. And her career ambition is one which delights all desi parents – to become a physician!


Nina Davuluri is Miss America 2014

Nina Davuluri is Miss America 2014



The Good Indian

Well, like a good Indian, she also is a true Bollywood fan, and when push came to shove, and all the beauty queens were showcasing their talents, she did the fail-proof thing – break into a fantastic Bollywood dance! After all, Indian cinema has been around for a hundred years – how could she go wrong?

What could be sweeter for Indian parents?

Well, sweeter is when the unexpected happens. Remember, she beat out a nation full of beautiful ‘real’ American girls to become Miss America! For immigrant parents and their children there has to be a sweetness and a poignancy to this.


Miss America 2014

Miss America 2014


The Brown Girl Story

For a whole generation of young people, growing up Indian in America meant painful things. You often looked different from the other kids in your class, you were the one with the long, unpronounceable name, the one with the lunch that smelled strange, the one with the parents who dressed weirdly. While others were cheerleaders, at a rock concert or out on dates, you were the one going to the temple or learning bharat natyam in some aunty’s basement.

In various parts of Middle America, you were often the only brown kid in your class, a lonely place to be. Even your Gods looked different, had too many hands and often too many heads.


By winning the Miss America title, Nina Davuluri has scored big for all those little brown girls who were always the outsider and had to answer the taunt “But where are you really from?” Generations of kids were often asked why their mothers had dots on their heads and whether they lived in huts and about their connection to tigers, snakes and elephants.


The title of Miss America makes Nina Davuluri as American as apple pie, as American as American can be. In fact, you can dance the bhangra, eat dosas and sambar, worship any God you choose – and you’re still American. Davuluri’s win shows Indian-American children that their many differences are what make America rich and special, and don’t make them any less American.


Nina Davuluri does a Bollywood dance

Nina Davuluri does a Bollywood dance

A Changing America

Nina’s Miss America crown is a validation of the changing face of America, of the many colors and races which make up its incredibly rich fabric.

White is beautiful and so is brown and so is black. The judges at the Miss America pageant seem to have absorbed this fact much more clearly than many in Indian society where dark skin is regarded as something to be scrubbed clean  into white and ‘Fair and Lovely’ and other skin lighteners do a rip-roaring trade.

Along with the  title of Miss America 2014, Nina, who comes from a family of many physicians,  won a $50,000 scholarship for her medical education. As Miss America, her platform issue is  ‘Celebrating Diversity through Cultural Competency’ and she will be the official National Goodwill Ambassador for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals.

She will also be the official spokesperson for R.E.I.G.N. Cosmetics, Joseph Ribkoff Inc. and Catalina Swimwear.  Not bad! And oh, yes, she will be traveling all over the US, a rising American star.

Thanks to Nina Davuluri,  Indian kids have won new bragging rights. They not only win all the Spelling Bees in existence –  they also bag the crown of Miss America! Bravo!

(c) Lavina Melwani


 A Photo Gallery of Nina Davuluri – Miss America





About Author

Lavina Melwani is a New York-based journalist who writes for several international publications. [email protected] & @lassiwithlavina Sign up for the free newsletter to get your dose of Lassi!


  1. Lavina, you have done it again with such a beautiful article
    Congratulations to Nina for winning Miss America, first Indian to win this.
    Nina is making history and has made us all proud
    We already have Sunita Williams, Nikki Haley, Indra Nooyi and many more women of Indian origin who have archived a lot in their professions. By winning Miss America, Nina has proven that every child born in USA can have the great American dream and achieve it. Nina is an example of strong Indian values, traditions and culture. We must continue to encourage all our children to be part of mainsteam America, and show our culture, traditions and diversity.
    Once again congratulations to Nina and also to Lavina for excellence in journalism
    We will celebrate Diwali soon, let the celebrations begin and we must bring light, joy and happiness in everyone’s life!

  2. Lavina..thanks for a wonderful article, so well said! Our kids have so many amazing mentors to look up to, a generation that is breaking barriers in all fields, opening doors for the younger ones to follow in their footsteps and be proud of!

    Way to go Nina…many congratulations on this well earned and deserved title! I am sure you will make all Americans (and Indians) very proud!

  3. Indu, so glad you enjoyed it! Yes, Nina’s success proves to all children that all avenues are open to them and they can be whatever they want to be.

  4. Barkha, it’s indeed a good time to be an Indian-American – so many success stories to emulate.

  5. The Indian community in America can rejoice justifiably in the crowning of Ms Davuluri. But above anything else this underscores the openness of the American society, its fairness and diversity and its colorblind recognition of beauty, talent and merit. This is perhaps too much to understand for the white-skin worshiping masses in India. It will be interesting to see what Bollywood does with this girl.

  6. surinder rametra on

    Lavina thanks for the fabulous narration for the beautiful Ms. Nina Davuluri, ‘the Miss America’ – a moment to be proud as parents and grandparents.

  7. Thank you Surinder – there are so many ways to look at the win, and the haters will have their taunts and tweets but in reality this is such a positive event. I’m not a fan of beauty pageants but for young Indian girls it’s important to know that they can participate – and even win.

  8. Thank you, Lavina for yet another insightful article. I am so happy that you mentioned in your article about Indian society’s fetish with ‘fair and lovely’ skin for girls. This gorgeous young lady most certainly wouldn’t stand a chance at winning any beauty contest in India – after all she lacks the first and foremost requisite- “light skin” and now the hypocritical Indian media and people are going overboard calling her “ours”!!!! India is still so hung up on “gori chamri”! A sultry, dark beauty winning the coveted crown – it happens only in America. Yay!

  9. Here’s my question to all the racists: if performing an Indian dance as part of the talent portion is “un-American”, how was the “Irish” step dance performed by Miss Connecticut any more “American”????

  10. Surekha – you are right – fair skin seems to be mandatory for Indian women to succeed in almost any field. I’m sure her win is a great validation for all the dark skinned young girls who have been told they are less than beautiful because of their color. I hope Indian society and Indian men wise up too.

  11. Ketan – well said! Who decides what is ‘American’ and what is ‘Un-American’ in a nation which is built up with people from all parts of the world? That is America’s strength.
    I shared your comment on Lassi with Lavina’s FB page – https://www.facebook.com/LassiwithLavina – lots of thoughtful comments there!

  12. Narender G. Reddy via Facebook’s Lassi with Lavina page

    Some people with their senseless talk about her racial origin and color of skin are trying to steal Nina’s happiness in winning Miss America title against all odds. She is a real American who happened to win Miss America. Live with it.