Nina Davuluri (Miss America 2013): Breaking Barriers and Shaping a Legacy Beyond the Crown

Introduction of Nina Davuluri:

In 2014, history was made on the Miss America stage when Nina Davuluri, a trailblazing Indian American, took the crown. Yet, her narrative extends far beyond the realms of a beauty queen. Beyond the dazzling gowns and tiaras, Nina is an acclaimed filmmaker, actor, activist, and entrepreneur who has utilized her platform to advocate for diversity and inclusion across various domains.

Early Years and Academic Pursuits:

Nina Davuluri’s roots trace back to Syracuse, New York, where she was born to a Telugu family from India. Her formative years, spent in Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh, were steeped in the traditions of Indian dance and culture. However, her family’s journey led them to different corners of the United States, from Oklahoma to Michigan. It was in these diverse landscapes that Nina faced the harsh realities of bullying and racism. However, rather than succumbing to these challenges, she embraced her identity and celebrated her heritage.

Upon graduating from the University of Michigan with a degree in brain behavior and cognitive science, Nina initially aspired to a career in medicine. Little did she know that her passion for the arts would soon beckon her towards a different path.

Pageantry and Historic Triumphs:

Nina Davuluri kicked off her journey in beauty pageants back in 2006 by winning the title of Miss Michigan’s Outstanding Teen. She then competed in the Miss America’s Outstanding Teen pageant and snagged the first runner-up spot. Nina didn’t stop there; she took part in various local and state pageants until she clinched the title of Miss New York in 2013. This victory granted her the opportunity to represent her state in the prestigious Miss America pageant.

For the Miss America pageant, Nina Davuluri focused on the theme “Celebrating Diversity Through Cultural Competency.” Her goal was to promote a positive and inclusive image of America, encouraging people from different backgrounds to coexist and learn from one another. She aimed to challenge stereotypes and prejudices, particularly those affecting people of color, especially women. Nina was thrilled that the organization embraced diversity, hoping it would resonate with children watching at home.

Nina Davuluri showcased her talents in the Miss America pageant with a Bollywood fusion dance, blending classical Indian dance, jazz, and hip-hop. Her performance resonated well with the judges and the audience, earning her a standing ovation. She excelled in the talent portion, securing a spot in the top five finalists.

During the final question round, she was asked about the controversial topic of plastic surgery. Her response emphasized personal choice but stressed the importance of being confidently beautiful in one’s own skin, aligning with the Miss America Organization’s message. This answer impressed the judges, leading to Nina Davuluri being crowned Miss America 2013.

Her victory, the first by a woman of Indian descent, was celebrated by many, especially the Asian American community. Despite the positive reception, Nina faced negative reactions, including racist comments online. However, she responded gracefully, focusing on the love and support she received.

Throughout her reign, Nina advocated for her platform of celebrating diversity and raised awareness and funds for various causes, including education, health, and women’s empowerment. She faced personal challenges, such as the loss of her father in 2014, but viewed her year as Miss America as both tough and rewarding.

Nina Davuluri passed on her Miss America crown in 2014 to Kira Kazantsev, marking the third consecutive win for Miss New York. This historic streak also made her the first Miss America to crown another woman of Asian descent, as Kira Kazantsev has Russian and Indian origins.

Championing Diversity Amidst Backlash:

Nina Davuluri’s platform, “Celebrating Diversity Through Cultural Competency,” was not just a title but a mantra she embodied. She aimed to foster dialogue and understanding among different groups, challenging stereotypes and prejudices, particularly those affecting women of color. However, with great achievement often comes great scrutiny.

As Miss America, Nina Davuluri faced backlash and criticism that questioned her American identity and appearance. The online sphere became a battleground where she encountered racist comments and baseless accusations. Responding with grace and dignity, Nina asserted her pride in representing the evolving face of America.

Her reign was not without challenges. She navigated the pressures of being in the public eye, balanced personal and professional life, and coped with the loss of her father in February 2014. Through it all, she emerged stronger, having learned valuable lessons about herself and grown as an individual.

Beyond the Crown:

Post-reign, Nina Davuluri’s commitment to diversity and inclusion continued to evolve. She hosted the reality show “Made in America” on Zee TV America, delving into the stories of Indian Americans who made significant impacts across various fields. Her endeavors expanded into filmmaking, with the production and starring role in the documentary #COMPLEXion. This documentary critically examines the global beauty industry and its profound effects on women of color.

Currently working on her first feature film, a romantic comedy set in India and America, Nina’s foray into filmmaking showcases her multifaceted talents. Her storytelling extends beyond the stage, using the cinematic medium to amplify narratives often overlooked or misrepresented.

Activism and Entrepreneurship:

Nina Davuluri’s activism takes center stage in her initiatives. The #CirclesOfUnity social media campaign encourages constructive dialogue on diversity issues. By inviting people to share their stories and experiences, Nina fosters an environment of mutual respect and understanding. Live chats and webinars with experts further contribute to the campaign’s objective of creating a more inclusive society.

#SeeMyComplexion, another of Nina Davuluri’s initiatives, challenges global beauty standards that favor lighter skin tones. This campaign celebrates the beauty and diversity of all skin colors, aiming to empower women and girls to embrace their natural complexion and identity. Nina educates people about the harmful effects of skin bleaching products and practices, shedding light on the social and psychological implications of colorism.

Nina Davuluri’s advocacy extends to her role as a spokesperson for STEM education, especially for girls and women of color. Additionally, her involvement with the US Dream Academy, a program supporting children of incarcerated parents, showcases her commitment to social causes. She remains an active supporter of the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals, the official platform of the Miss America Organization.

Legacy and Ongoing Impact:

Nina Davuluri’s legacy extends beyond her Miss America reign. Her journey from Syracuse to the national stage and beyond exemplifies resilience, courage, and a dedication to positive change. She is not just a former Miss America but a current filmmaker, activist, and entrepreneur, challenging the status quo and leaving an indelible mark on the world.


Nina Davuluri’s story is a testament to the transformative power of embracing one’s identity and celebrating diversity. Her journey serves as an inspiration for aspiring individuals, particularly young women of color, who dare to dream beyond societal expectations. As a beauty queen, filmmaker, activist, and entrepreneur, Nina is a true trailblazer, dismantling barriers and paving the way for others to follow. Her life is a compelling narrative that beauty is not confined to a single standard but encompasses a rich tapestry of expressions. Beyond the crown, Nina Davuluri is a movement, a force for change, and an enduring symbol of the beauty in diversity.

Also read about “Jane Garrett (Miss Universe Nepal 2023): Redefining Beauty, Inspiring Change“.

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