Nina Davuluri made history on Sunday, Sept. 14 when she went from “Miss New York” to “Miss America.” This marks the first time in the history of the pageant that a woman of Indian descent earned the coveted tiara. And while this was an occasion that should have been celebrated, Davuluri faced an immediate wave of hateful responses to her victory by ignorant Twitter-users.
“Congratulations Al Qaeda our Miss America is one of you.”
“I thought this was Miss America not Miss Arab.”
Hundreds of tweets dominated by ignorance showed Twitter’s ugly side. Not only were many of the users dead wrong on Davuluri’s race, but they went on to say how terrible it was so soon after the 9/11 terrorist attack. The greatest irony in the face of these racist remarks lies in Davuluri’s platform for the Pageant: Celebrating diversity through cultural competency. Obviously there are those who fail to live up to any definition of the word “competent.”
Despite the hate of the few, however, Davuluri’s victory gave plenty of reasons to celebrate. This year’s Miss America Pageant marked the most culturally diverse in its history. Five of the contestants were Asian Americans, three of them made it to the top five and two ended up being finalists.
“The girl next door is evolving as the diversity in America evolves,” said Davuluri. “She’s not who she was ten years ago and she’s not going to be the same person come ten years down the road.”
According to Davuluri, she received countless words of congratulations and support for every one of those hurtful messages. One of those very voices was former history-maker Vanessa Williams, the first black “Miss America.” The two had many things in common besides their pageant wins. Williams and Davuluri both started as Miss Syracuse. From there they both won the “Miss New York” titles before they both made history with “Miss America” wins, which were exactly 30 years apart to the date. Williams made a point to stand behind her fellow pageant-winner in the face of hurtful words, having gone through the same treatment.
This new “Miss America” reflects America’s love of diversity and its melting-pot identity as a country. In the Pageant’s beginning years, it required that contestants “be of good health and the white race.” Now, with winners like Davuluri, girls of all races, religion or socioeconomic background can live by the real American dream.