The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

The Greyhound

The Greyhound

The Greyhound

Miss America 2014, Nina Davuluri, featured as keynote speaker during APIA month

On Tuesday, April 8, Nina Davuluri, Miss America 2014, graced Loyola with her presence. Davuluri, the first Indian-American winner of the Miss America crown, was on campus to be featured as the keynote speaker at an ACA and ALANA sponsored event, part of the “Inspire, Imagine and Identify” theme of Asian & Pacific Islander Awareness Month.

Davuluri spoke in regard to her experiences as Miss America, as a student and in daily life. She has been working to promote her platform—chosen when she initially began competing in the Miss America organization— “Celebrating Diversity through Cultural Competency”, which she focused on as Loyola’s keynote speaker on Tuesday.

The Miss America Organization is the only pageant system that she has competed in. Her involvement began in 2006 when she won Miss Michigan Outstanding Teen and received a $25,000.00 scholarship. Between her victories she has won over $92,000.00 in scholarship money. That money allowed Davuluri to graduate debt-free in 2011 from the University of Michigan with the help of her parents. A great deal of the money from her victory as Miss America this last year is left for her to use to cover her expenses when she goes back to university to pursue a graduate degree. The Miss America Organization has made over 45 million dollars available in scholarships to young women across the nation.

Davuluri, originally from Syracuse, New York, began competing in the Miss America organization pageants at the age of 16 in order to earn scholarship money to put towards her undergraduate education. After taking about a five year hiatus from the pageant world, Davuluri reentered “wanting to become the first Miss America of Indian descent.” She discussed that she had essentially been preparing for the Miss America competition and especially the role of being the first Indian-American winner of the pageant. She called being crowned Miss America “a kind of dream of hers.” Davuluri’s motivation for working harder towards the competition came after fellow Miss New York, Mallory Hagan, won the title in 2013. She stated that Hagan’s victory was “a turning point” for her—she came back to the competition for Miss America 2014 viewing it as a totally new “ball field.”

Not only was she the first Miss America who is of Indian descent, but she was also the first Miss New York (2013) to be Indian-American. Following her victory as Miss America, Davuluri received a great deal of backlash in regard to her heritage. She discussed the backlash detailing that she had faced the same situation when she won the Miss New York title in 2013. She said that that experience prepared her for the response to her Miss America title. She called the backlash “unfortunate” and said that “Twitter is never happy” with Twitter being where she faced most of the backlash. She also explained that she thought the response actually caused a lot of positive discussion between young people, detailing how for every negative tweet she received she received 100 positive, supportive messages. She said that the backlash actually created a “global discussion which has been really amazing.”

Davuluri has, and will continue, as she explained, use her status to “spread awareness about diversity.” She stated that it “felt so timely to finally reach out to a new demographic of young women.” Davuluri feels that her victory has changed the image of “the girl next door.” She explained that the girl next door is “evolving as America’s diversity is evolving.” She detailed how her journey has truly encompassed her platform. After growing up with stereotypes and constantly being asked questions due to ignorance, Davuluri felt that her platform to spread awareness about diversity was the perfect fit for her to promote while she competed.

The first time that Davuluri was introduced to a group of people who really understood what she went through was in college. She wanted to be involved in all aspects of her undergraduate education, so she joined student government and a sorority, as well as being involved in a cultural group on campus. With her group she participated in a cultural day at a local elementary school in Ann Arbor, Michigan where each room was a different culture (all the cultural groups on campus came together for the event). Through the event the children learned about other cultures in an active way. Davuluri explained that having children engaged with other cultures as opposed to just listening to a lecture is “what cultural competency is all about.” She used this experience to mold her platform.

The night she won the title of Miss America Davuluri was asked to pack all of her belongings into two suitcases and to go. She has had an extensive college tour while she promotes her platform—which no other Miss America has ever had. She travels on average 20,000 miles per month and is not in one place for more than 48 hours at a time. She has also had the opportunity to sign legislation in different states to promote cultural diversity and has lobbied on Capital Hill. She said that one of the coolest parts of being Miss America was the chance she had to meet President Obama and President Clinton.

In addition to promoting her personal platform, Davuluri has worked as a National Goodwill Ambassador (through the Children’s Miracle Network Hospital), and works in stem cell research and the Department of Dducation. Davuluri explained that many people want to win the title of Miss America but not necessarily the job—it’s clear through her work that she has fully embraced both the job and the title and has done a lot to work towards creating positive change in many aspects.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Greyhound Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Activate Search
Miss America 2014, Nina Davuluri, featured as keynote speaker during APIA month