Miss America 2014 contestant, Miss New York Nina Davuluri competes in a preliminary round during the Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey, September 10, 2013. Miss America will be crowned during the final ceremony on Sunday, September 15. (Photo : REUTERS/Carlo Allegri (UNITED STATES - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT))
On Sunday, Nina Davuluri became the first-ever Indian-American to be crowned Miss America in the pageant's history. However, instantly after winning the prized tiara, she became the target of vicious racist attacks online.
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"If you're #Miss America you should have to be American," said one Twitter user, reports The Guardian. "WHEN WILL A WHITE WOMAN WIN #MISSAMERICA? Ever??!!" asked another.
Brushing aside the negativity, the 24-year-old beauty and aspiring doctor has remained positive, saying that she is grateful to see the nearly 100-year-old pageant changing with the times.
"I'm so happy this organization has embraced diversity," Davuluri said in her first press conference. "I'm thankful there are children watching at home who can finally relate to a new Miss America."
She continued showing resiliency and determination not to let racism overshadow her moment in the spotlight.
"I have to rise above that," she said. "I always viewed myself as first and foremost American."
Davuluri is the second straight winner from the Empire State. She was born in Syracuse, but moved to Oklahoma at 4 years old and then to Michigan at 10. Six years ago, her family moved to Fayetteville, where her dad works as an obstetrician/gynecologist.
According to the official Miss America website, she attended St. Joseph High School before graduating from the University of Michigan. Her main platform issue in the competition was to celebrate diversity through cultural competency.
During an interview on "Live With Kelly and Michael" this week, Davuluri paid homage to another Miss America who endured racist attacks after breaking racial barriers 30 years ago.
"Vanessa Williams was former Miss Syracuse and went on to win Miss New York and Miss America and that was the same exact path I took 30 years ago to the date, Sept.15," said Davuluri. "Really the stars aligned for both of us."
Williams became the first black woman to wear the crown in 1984. Her accomplishment was likened to that of Jackie Robinson's achievement of breaking the color line in baseball. However, for the first time in the pageantry, she became subjected to death threats and hate mail, reports PBS.
Halfway into her winning year, unauthorized pornographic photos that Williams took before she entered the pageant were leaked to the public forcing her to resign. Many people saw racial politics at the heart of the scandal, and debated how Williams' race might have affected events.