There She Is, Miss America!


Miss New York Nina Davuluri

Our talk with the second Asian-American to take the Miss America crown

Last year’s Miss America pageant set history in the Asian-American community. The last two standing were Miss California Crystal Lee of Chinese descent and Miss New York Nina Davuluri of Indian descent. Nina Davuluri won the national crown and became the first Indian Miss America. Asia Trend was able to take part in her Joseph Ribkoff Miss America media tour and learn a little more about her.

AT: In many Asian- American families, the parents expect a lot from their children academically. How did your parents feel when you got involved in pageants?

ND: As much as there was a very significant emphasis on academics, there was also an equal emphasis on having those extra-curricular activities that were important. I think there is a certain stigma surrounding the pageant world unfortunately. But I started competing for scholarship money. My parents were always supportive, not necessarily encouraging. Through this organization, I’ve earned a little over $90,000, and I have $60,000 of that left to put in my graduate degree. So it’s something that any parent can really appreciate in the scholarship aspect especially since student loans and the cost of education is astronomically expensive.

AT: How do you advise children with immigrant parents, the proper balance between their traditional values and American culture?

ND: It is hard, and for me, one of the ways I was able to express myself is through dance. I grew up classically trained in Indian dance called Bharatanatyam and for Miss America I performed a Bollywood dance. I realized that assimilation really has to happen on both sides. Being able to share my talent, my culture, with my peers is something that I love to do. They were always curious and wanted to know what it meant. And I felt my community was very accepting of that.

Miss New York Nina Davuluri
Miss New York Nina Davuluri and Elizabeth Tran

AT: With you saying both cultures have to assimilate, how can we tell people not as receptive?

ND: The reality of the situation is my parents emigrated here thirty years ago to provide a life for my sister and I that they had never had. To chase the American dream that so many immigrant parents and pioneers come to this country for in search. And I am truly a living testament to that, becoming the first Indian Miss America is something that could only happen here. Your parents want what’s best for you, and they want you to be happy, so I think starting a conversation, opening that door of honesty, is one of the best things I could’ve done.

AT: How do Miss America sponsors like Joseph Ribkoff support you in your reign?

ND: As Miss America, we have a wonderful wardrobe provider, so every appearance I’m in I’m wearing their clothes. What’s so great is since I’m traveling so much, I put them in a suitcase, pull them out, put them on, not have to worry about ironing them, they’re just good to go the whole day clean and pressed. They’re really good from day to night, so with a quick change in accessories you can turn a day business outfit to more of a cocktail look, so that makes my life easy.

AT: What do you plan to do after Miss America?

ND: I will actually be continuing my speaking engagements and traveling, I’ve been booking through April of 2015, I will be going back to school to get my MBA in the fall of 2015. I have another year to continue all the momentum of this year and do more things that Nina wants to do and focus more on my platform.

Photos: Vincent Tejada of VMT Photography


For the full interview, please visit