ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Moments after winning the 2014 Miss America crown, Nina Davuluri described how delighted she is that the nearly century-old pageant sees beauty and talent of all kinds.
The 24-year-old Miss New York is the first contestant of Indian heritage to become Miss America; her talent routine was a Bollywood fusion dance.
"I'm so happy this organization has embraced diversity," she said in her first press conference after winning the crown in Atlantic City, N.J.'s Boardwalk Hall. "I'm thankful there are children watching at home who can finally relate to a new Miss America."
Her pageant platform was "celebrating diversity through cultural competency."
The native of Syracuse, N.Y. wants to be a doctor, and is applying to medical school, with the help of a $50,000 scholarship she won as part of the pageant title.
She is the second consecutive Miss New York to win the Miss America crown, succeeding Mallory Hagan, who was selected in January when the pageant was still held in Las Vegas. The Miss America Organization will compensate Hagan for her shortened reign.
Davuluri's victory led to some negative comments on Twitter from users upset that someone of Indian heritage had won the pageant. She brushed those aside.
"I have to rise above that," she said. "I always viewed myself as first and foremost American."
Her grandmother told The Associated Press that she cried when she saw the news on television.
I am very, very, happy for the girl. It was her dream and it was fulfilled," 89-year-old V. Koteshwaramma said by phone from her home in the city of Vijaywada, in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.
She said there are numerous doctors in the family, both in the U.S. and India, and that if her granddaughter wants to become one "I am sure she will do it."