Nina Davuluri was contested by two other Asian American women in the final five before being crowned Miss America Sunday night in Atlantic City.
Davuluri made history by becoming the first woman of Indian descent to win the nation’s top beauty pageant. This was also the first time that three Asian American women were among the five finalists. Lee was named first runner up and Yeh, fourth runner up.
“I’m so happy this organization has embraced diversity,” said Davuluri at the press conference following the pageant. “I’m thankful there are children watching at home who can finally relate to a new Miss America.”
Davuluri also made history by becoming the second consecutive New Yorker to win the Miss America crown. She succeeds Mallory Hagan whose term was cut short by several months due to the pageant’s decision to reschedule and move the annual event to Atlantic City from Las Vegas.
Davuluri captivated the judges and the crowd with an energetic Bollywood fusion dance and by her intelligent responses. She plans to apply the $50,000 scholarship winnings toward tuition at the medical school she plans to attend. Her father is a doctor in her hometown of Fayetteville near Syracuse.
First runner-up Crystal Lee of San Francisco is just as brainy and ambitious as Davuluri — and not afraid to show it. Her pageant platform was “Women in STEM’ (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). She has two Stanford degrees, one in biology and a master’s in communication. Even her talent segment was highbrow — classical ballet. Her ambition is to start a tech company.
Among the contestants vying against Crystal Lee, Miss California, was Crystal Lee, Miss Hawaii. The alphabetical introduction of the talent performances of two contestants of Chinese heritage with same a murmur through an audience who thought it was a gaffe. But Hawaii’s Crystal Lee — a graduate of the University of Hawaii — set herself apart with a contemporary dance number.
Fourth runner-up Rebecca Yeh, 20, of Nisswa, Minnesota is a junior at Ohio Northern University where she’s studying to become a clinical pharmacist. She has been earning money as a violin instructor since the age of 13. She also performs regularly as a soloist, as a member of a string trio and a string quartet.
The crowning of Nina Davuluri wasn’t greeted with universal applause. Those who had trouble grasping the concept of a non-white Miss America sniped at her with racist tweets.
“I have to rise above that,” Davuluri said at her press conference. “I always viewed myself as first and foremost American.”