When I first heard the new Miss America has Indian heritage, my first reaction was: It’s about time.
Earlier this week it was announced 24-year-old Nina Davuluri, who was named Miss New York 2013, won the title of Miss America 2013. She is the first woman with an Indian background to win the title.
I rarely pay attention to the winners of these pageants. It’s just not one of my interests and I am of the opinion beauty pageants define what is considered beautiful, which degrades anyone who looks different. After all, it’s what’s inside that truly makes us beautiful.
Even so, this story caught my eye.
I think it’s great she won. Regardless of what I or anyone else think of beauty pageants or the “ideal beauty,” it still tells us something about society. Amardeep Singh, English professor of Lehigh University, described Miss America as a “symbol of national identity, who represents the society as a whole” in an Associated Press (AP) article.
The pageant has been around for almost 100 years. It has been a struggle for people who are not Caucasian over the years to win the pageant. Out of those 100 pageant years, there have been seven black Miss America winners.
Thirty years ago, Vanessa Williams was the first black winner. In 2001 a Hawaii-born Filipina won the title.
Lakshmi Gandhi, editor of the Indian-American blog Aerogram.com, told the AP Davuluri is getting so much attention from her win “because it’s so different.”
We are and always have been a multicultural society. We need to embrace that.
On the contrary, I also read a few articles saying that this isn’t progress we should support because of the nature of beauty pageants. I can understand that argument, but pageants aren’t going away anytime soon. At least now more diversity has been represented and recognized in a beauty pageant.
When Davuluri’s win was announced there were some negative, horrible reactions on Twitter. Those included “If you’re #Miss America you should have to be American” and “WHEN WILL A WHITE WOMAN WIN #MISSAMERICA? Ever??!!”
I am taken back and disgusted that people would say things like that. Davuluri is American with an Indian heritage and different ethnicities are what make us who we are. There will always be critics.
But when I searched the tag #MissAmerica on Thursday I saw an overwhelming number of positive reactions. That, to me, is a sign of progress. We need to rise above the critics, face all the odds and be proud of who we are.
Ethnic differences have never mattered to me. People are still people, no matter what their ethnicity is, and I treat them as such.
So should we all. And remember: There is more than one kind of beautiful. Don’t let anyone ever tell you different.
Follow Lisa Goudy on Twitter @lisagoudy.