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Miss America: Brains, Beauty and Bollywood

September 23, 2013
Plain English Version

Miss America, Nina Davuluri

The 2014 Miss America is of Indian descent.

Does the nationality of Miss American matter? Based on messages sent on twitter and social media after she was crowned, the answer is yes. They were not messages of congratulations.

The messages said Nina Davuluri is an Arab or a Muslim, as if those were labels to be shunned. In fact, she is an Indian who was born and raised in Syracuse, NY. She has a degree in brain behavior and cognitive science from the University of Michigan.

Her victory was the first for a person with a  south Asian background. South Asians rejoiced in knowing they were moving into the American mainstream. And there are few things more American than the Miss America Pageant.

Pride in one’s background makes sense. Unfortunately, pride in one’s background can result in hostility from people who do not share the heritage.

Ms. Davuluri answered those who insulted her. “I have to rise above that,” she said. “I always viewed myself as first and foremost American.”

In her winning performance she danced in a jewel-bespeckled crimson and turquoise lehenga choli outfit. She danced barefoot with a set of ghungroo anklet bells showing off her Bollywood talents.

Today more than 3.4 million people with family ties to south Asia live in the U.S. Families come from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, as well as Sri Lanka and Nepal. Of these, 80 percent are of Indian heritage, and nearly 3 out of 4 were born outside the U.S.

As for dancing to a Bollywood song, an observer said, “It is an assertion of identity from another place. And that is what makes her even more American.”

Source: The Christian Science Monitor

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