WASHINGTON – OCA-Asian Pacific American Advocates, a national membership-driven organization dedicated to advancing the political, social, and economic well-being of Asian Pacific Americans, celebrates Nina Davuluri’s victory as the first Indian American to be crowned Miss America on Sunday during the Miss America Pageant.
Three of the top five contestants during this year’s pageant were of Asian Pacific American descent: Miss California, Crystal Lee; Miss Minnesota, Rebecca Yeh; and Miss New York, Nina Davuluri. Miss California was awarded the title of first runner-up, and Miss Minnesota was given the title of fourth runner-up.
“This is a historic event for the APA community. For the first time, three of the five finalists are APA. They represent not only the diversity found within our community but also the changing face of the American public,” said Tom Hayashi, OCA executive director. “As the first Indian American to win the title of Miss America, Ms. Davuluri challenges the misconception that Americans are one monolithic group. Her success shows that we come in all shapes, all sizes, and all races.”
“Ms. Davuluri’s commitment to evolving the image of Miss America to reflect diverse young women demonstrates strong leadership and foresight into the changing demographics of our country,” said Sharon M. Wong, OCA president. “As an advocacy organization, we are extremely proud of her achievements and support her as an ambassador of our community and the Miss America Pageant.”
Davuluri’s victory has prompted some openly racist tweets, some of which incorrectly described her as an Arab, a Muslim, and a member of Al Qaeda. One read, “How the f— does a foreigner win Miss America?”
Despite the negative reactions, Davuluri — who was born in New York to parents who immigrated from India 30 years ago — seeks to rise above the distasteful comments by continuing to redefine standards of Americanism, stating that she has “always viewed myself as first and foremost American.”
In a video for the Miss New York website, she says, “I’m on a mission. Miss America has always been the girl next door. But Miss America is evolving. And she’s not going to look the same anymore.”
Five APA Candidates
An unprecedented five of the 53 candidates (from the 50 states, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands) were of Asian heritage, including two with the same name. Following are brief profiles:
• Miss New York Nina Davuluri, Miss America, 24, is from Syracuse and attended St. Joseph High School and University of Michigan. Her scholastic ambition is to attend medical school and her career ambition is to become a physician. Her talent was Bollywood fusion. Platform issue: “Celebrating Diversity Through Cultural Competency.” Local competition sponsor: Miss Syracuse
• Miss California Crystal Lee, 22, first runner-up, is from San Francisco and earned a B.A. in human biology and an M.A. in communication from Stanford University. Her scholastic ambition is to earn an MBA and her career ambition is to start her own technology company. Her talent was ballet en pointe. Platform issue: “Women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math).” Local competition sponsor: Miss Santa Clara/Silicon Valley
• Miss Minnesota Rebecca Yeh, 20, fourth runner-up, is from Nisswa and attended Brainerd High School and Ohio Northern University. Her scholastic ambition is to obtain her Doctorate of Pharmacy degree and her career ambition is to become a clinical pharmacist and violin instructor. Her talent was violin. Platform issue: “My Voice for Philip” (her brother, who has autism). Local competition sponsor: Miss Northwest Scholarship Program
• Miss District of Columbia Bindhu Pamarthi, 23, is from Washington, D.C. and attended North Carolina School of the Arts/University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Her scholastic ambition is to obtain her Juris Doctorate. Her career ambition is to practice law as a compassionate and highly regarded attorney. Her talent was Bollywood dance. Platform issue: “Makeups Should Be Makeup” (cruelty-free cosmetics). State competition sponsor: Miss District of Columbia Scholarship Organization Inc.
• Miss Hawaii Crystal Lee, 22, is from Waipahu and attended Pearl City High School and University of Hawaii. Her scholastic ambition is to pass a proficiency test as fluent in the French language. Her career ambition is to become an adverstising/promotions executive. Her talent was contemporary dance. Platform issue: “Promoting the Gift of Life: Educating the Public of the Importance of Giving Blood.” Local competition sponsor: Miss Chinatown Organization