Nina Davuluri became the first Indian-American to win Miss America, taking the crown on Sunday night in Atlantic City, the birthplace of the competition in 1921.
“I haven’t even had time to get emotional,” said a still shellshocked Davuluri, 24, after being crowned in Atlantic City. “I haven’t even had time to speak to my parents yet.”
Contestants were judged on a personal interview, a talent demonstration, an on-stage question, and their appearance in evening gowns and swimwear during the two-hour nationally televised event.
Davuluri, an aspiring physician, defeated representatives from 49 other states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
Miss New York wowed the crowd with a traditional Bollywood dance for the talent portion of the competition. Her pageant platform was “celebrating diversity through cultural competency.”
She also vowed to rise above negative comments from Twitter users upset that someone of Indian heritage won the competition, the Associated Press said. “I always viewed myself as first and foremost American,” it quoted her as saying.
Miss New York Nina Davuluri was asked by Carla Hall about Julie Chen’s decision to have plastic surgery about making her eyes less Asian. “I don’t agree with plastic surgery, however I can understand that from a standpoint.
“More importantly I’ve always viewed Miss America as the girl next door. And Miss America is always evolving… I wouldn’t want to change someone’s looks. Be confident in who you are.”
The future doctor has struggled with her own weight issues — Davuluri lost more than 50 pounds and suffered with bulimia, reports the NY Daily News.
“People who’ve been overweight, especially women, feel like at a moment’s notice we can go back to where we were,” she told the Syracuse Post-Standard in July. “It makes you more sympathetic, more empathetic. You don’t judge. I’ve been there, and if I can pull myself out of where I’ve been, anyone can.”
The 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.
Over the coming year, the University of Michigan student from Syracuse will travel about 20,000 miles every month to different parts of the U.S. in her role as Miss America 2014, the organizers of the competition said. The winner will also serve as a spokeswoman for STEM when she works with the Department of Education in Washington, D.C.
“I am making my first official service commitment in Seaside Heights, because the Jersey Shore is our home,” she said.
She is the second consecutive Miss New York to win the Miss America crown, succeeding Mallory Hagan, who was selected in January when the pageant was still held in Las Vegas. The Miss America Organization will compensate Hagan for her shortened reign, says Washington Post.
The celeb judges for the night: Lance Bass, Mario Cantone, Carla Hall, Barbara Corcoran, Joshua Bell, Amar’e Stoudemire and the last Miss America to be crowned in Atlantic City, Deidre Downs Gunn.
The 93-year-old beauty pageant returned to its hometown of Atlantic City, New Jersey, this year after an eight-year stretch in Las Vegas.