Nina Davuluri of New York is Miss America 2014

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Nina Davuluri made history last night, becoming the first American of Indian descent to win the coveted title of Miss America 2014. She’s the second consecutive Miss New York to take home the title and ended up beating out runner-up Miss California, who is Asian American.

“I was the first Indian Miss New York, and I’m so proud to be the first Indian Miss America,” Davuluri said after her win. So what does Davuluri have to say about the backlash? “I have to rise above that,” she said, according to The Guardian. “I always viewed myself as first and foremost American.”

CNN reports that Davuluri has an impressive background. The 24-year-old resident of Fayetteville, N.Y. received the Michigan Merit Award and joined the National Honor Society at the University of Michigan, graduating with a degree in brain behavior and cognitive science. Davuluri has also studied dance that’s related to her heritage, including Kuchipudi and Bharatanatyam, CNN reports.

Davuluri performed a Bollywood routine for the talent portion of the pageant, calling her platform “Celebrating Diversity Through Cultural Competency.” According to CNN, Davuluri had suffered from bulimia and childhood obesity in the past and is passionate about healthy lifestyles. Her father is a gynecologist and she says she hopes to become a physician one day.

“During her year as Miss America she will serve as spokesperson for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) this year as she travels to Washington, D.C., to work with the Department of Education,” reads a Miss America statement.

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2014 Miss America Quality of Life, STEM, and Fourpoints Scholarship Award Winners Announced

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With the nation celebrating the 2014 Miss America Competition’s return to its iconic birthplace in Atlantic City, today’s announcement of the 2014 Quality of Life, STEM Scholarships, and fourpoints Scholarship Award winners provided one more reason to celebrate. The winner of the $6,000 Quality of Life Award was Miss Michigan, Haley Williams. The winners of the $5,000 S.T.E.M. Scholarships are Miss Mississippi, Chelsea Rick and Miss California, Crystal Lee. The winner of the fourpoints Scholarship is Miss Idaho Sarah Downs.

The Quality of Life Awards were introduced in 1988 to recognize contestants who excel in their commitment to community service. The awards are available to each of the 53 contestants competing for the title of Miss America.

Miss Michigan HaleyWilliams has helped to improve the quality of life of children through her personal platform, Through a Child’s Eyes: Conquering Childhood Grief. Miss Michigan has used her platform to be a champion for children faced with the loss of a family member and how to overcome the grief of their loss. Her passionate connection to her platform has enabled her to go above and beyond in her efforts to conquer childhood grief. The announcement was made at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall during Thursday’s Miss America press conference.

The first-runner up for the Quality of Life Award and winner of a $4,000 scholarship was Miss South Carolina Brooke Mosteller. Brooke’s personal platform is GO HIGHER! College Application Day, which sheds light on the difficulties of the college application process. Brooke has worked with the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education, collaborating to create and implement College Application Day in local high schools.

The second runner-up and winner of a $2,000 scholarship was Miss Rhode Island Jessica Marfeo for her work with her platform B.F.F: Be Friends First- Promoting Health Relationship Education and Mentoring which promotes the importance of providing our youth with a strong health education system facilitated with mentors to teach future generations how to maintain healthy relationships.

In addition to the Quality of Life Awards, the fourpoints award reflects what the four points of the crown represent: Scholarship, Service, Success and Style. The winner of this $2,000 award was Miss Idaho Sarah Downs for her work with her personal platform entitled Promoting Nutrition: Taking Back Our Health. Through Sarah’s personal connection with her platform, she is an advocate and role model for living a healthy and nutritious lifestyle.

For the first time in the history, the Miss America Organization announced the STEM scholarships introduced by Miss America Foundation President of Development Tammy Haddad along with Miss America Organization Board Member Regina Hopper. These scholarships were introduced for contestants who study and want to work in the fields of science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM). The winners of the $5,000 STEM Scholarship Awards are Miss California Crystal Lee and Miss Mississippi Chelsea Rick.

Crystal Lee is a true advocate of the STEM philosophy. For 20 years, Crystal’s mother was the only female computer programmer in her department and saw first hand the male dominance in the technology field. Through her platform entitled Women in STEM, Crystal hopes to use her mother’s inspiration to promote STEM and break the barriers for women in STEM professions.

Chelsea Rick’s career ambition is to become a neurologist. She currently attends the William Carey University College of Osteopathic Medicine. Through her education, Chelsea wants to work in the field of Kinesology.

Miss Florida and Miss Georgia Win Preliminary Awards at 2014 Miss America Competition

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On the third and final night of the 2014 Miss America preliminary competitions back home in Atlantic City, Miss Florida, Myrrhanda Jones was named Thursday night’s preliminary Talent winner for her baton twirling performance to “Big Noise From Winnetka” in Boardwalk Hall. Myrrhanda will receive a $2,000 scholarship. Also capturing the spotlight was Miss Georgia, Carly Mathis, who was the preliminary Lifestyle and Fitness winner in a white Catalina swimsuit. Carly will receive a $1,000 scholarship.

As the world’s largest provider of scholarship assistance for young women and one of the nation’s leading achievement programs, the Miss America Organization last year made available more than $45 million in scholarship assistance. The Miss America Organization provides young women with a vehicle to further their personal and professional goals and instills a spirit of community service through a variety of nationwide community-based programs.

Miss Minnesota and Miss Oklahoma Win Preliminary Awards In Patriotic Tribute on the Second Night of the 2014 Miss America Competition

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The excitement continued on the second night of the 2014 Miss America Competition, back in its hometown of Atlantic City, New Jersey. The celebration began with a special patriotic tribute in honor of the 12th anniversary of September 11th. The Spotlight Performers Show Choir from The Greater Ocean City Theatre Company performed “God Bless the USA” at the opening of the show. Miss Minnesota, Rebecca Yeh was named Wednesday night’s preliminary Talent winner for her violin performance in Boardwalk Hall. Rebecca will receive a $2,000 scholarship. Also capturing the spotlight was Miss Oklahoma, Kelsey Griswold, who was the preliminary Lifestyle and Fitness winner in a black Catalina swimsuit. Kelsey will receive a $1,000 scholarship.

The Children’s Miracle Maker Award was another special highlight of the evening. This year’s Miracle Maker Award recipient was the Miss South Carolina Organization.The Miss America contestant who raised the most funds was Miss South Carolina, Brooke Mosteller. We applaud her outstanding efforts and thank The Miss South Carolina Organization for their wonderful contributions.

Miss New Hampshire and Miss Mississippi Win Preliminary Awards at 2014 Miss America Competition

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During the first of three preliminary nights for the 2014 Miss America Competition, Miss New Hampshire, Samantha Russo was named Talent winner for her vocal performance of “Don’t Rain On My Parade” in Boardwalk Hall on Tuesday. Samantha will receive a $2,000 scholarship. Also capturing the spotlight was Miss Mississippi, Chelsea Rick, who was the preliminary Lifestyle and Fitness winner in a black and gold Catalina swimsuit. Chelsea will receive a $1,000 scholarship.

As the world’s largest provider of scholarship assistance for young women and one of the nation’s leading achievement programs, the Miss America Organization last year made available more than $45 million in scholarship assistance. The Miss America Organization provides young women with a vehicle to further their personal and professional goals and instills a spirit of community service through a variety of nationwide community-based programs.

Miss America Contestant Reveals Tattoos, Breaks Taboo

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Tattoos and Miss America typically don’t mix. But that will end this week at the 92nd annual pageant thanks to one contestant: Miss Kansas, an inked-up boxer, mechanic, bow hunter and U.S. Army sergeant who plans on breaking a long-standing taboo by letting her tats show onstage.

“Why am I choosing to [bare] my tattoos? My whole platform is empowering women to overcome stereotypes and break barriers,” Theresa Vail told People magazine about her turn in the pageant, which kicked off preliminaries Tuesday. “What a hypocrite I would be if I covered my ink. How can I tell other women to be fearless and true to themselves if I can’t do the same? I am who I am, tattoos and all.”

It’s a bold move in a pageant steeped in tradition, according to pageant coach Valerie Hayes. “I think this is kind of a breakthrough moment for contestants with tattoos,” she told Yahoo Shine, explaining that, though there are no rules that explicitly ban tattoos, “they are typically seen by judges and organizers as a distraction.” In response, contestants with body art wind up disguising them with body makeup if they are not in spots that can be easily covered by their gowns.

“To my knowledge,” noted Hayes, who has trained women on all levels of competition, “no one has ever competed in an elite pageant showing a tattoo before.”

(Though an odd and interesting side note is that the very first televised beauty pageant — held at the World’s Fair in 1937 — featured contestant Betty Broadbent, a well-known and heavily tattooed circus attraction.)

Betty Broadbent at the 1937 World’s Fair. Photo: Getty Images
The current taboo, in fact, has helped give rise in recent years to tattoo-only pageants, like Miss Tattoo USA and, in Australia, Inked Beauties, which started after model Samantha Platt was rejected by one too many competitions because of her own sleeve of ink. “I was knocked from competitions after winning the heats only to be told at the grand finals that I couldn’t win because of my tattoos,’’ she told the Sydney Morning Herald in 2011.

Vail has two tats, both of which will be visible during the bikini portion of the competition. On her left shoulder is the insignia of the U.S. Army Dental Corps (she’s a member of the Kansas Army National Guard’s Medical Detachment, and her dad was an Army dentist). And running up and down her right side is the Serenity Prayer.

“As I was growing up amidst the bullying and neglect, I found myself asking God on a daily basis to give me peace in knowing I cannot change certain things about myself, but also asking Him to give me the strength to change things that I had the power to,” Hayes explained on her blog in August. “Praying to Him for these characteristics got me through my adolescent years, high school and boot camp. When I was 20 years old, I knew I wanted to always be reminded of my past and its connection to this prayer. Thus, I chose to have it tattooed onto my body. I have no regrets.”

Miss Kansas — who switched her talent from archery to singing after learning that “projectile objects” were forbidden in the competition — also blogged that she was hoping to change the standard image of a beauty queen.

“Now, many still believe that Miss America is apple pie and pearls,” she wrote. “However, in the job description of Miss America it clearly states that ‘she must represent contemporary women between the ages of 17-24.’ The operative word here is ‘contemporary,’ synonymous with modern! 1 in 5 Americans have at least 1 tattoo.”

Though Hayes doesn’t believe Vail’s move will open the floodgates for a slew of inked-up women to start appearing at competitions, she’s still “super excited” about it.

“A lot of people think you need to be a ‘pageant Barbie,’” she said, “and what I love about Miss Kansas is she’s showing people: No, it’s about competing at your personal best, not about trying to conform to a certain image.”

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The 2014 Miss America Contestants Enjoy The Best of the Beach & Boardwalk Plus The Legendary Steel Pier & Hard Rock Café

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The Miss America contestants enjoyed a night of Boardwalk fun before the Preliminary Competitions begin on Tuesday evening in Boardwalk Hall. The Class of 2014 enjoyed a special evening on the famed Atlantic City Boardwalk that included a delightful dinner at the Hard Rock Café located in The Taj Mahal Casino Hotel. The contestants enjoyed a delicious menu filled with American inspired cuisine and the atmosphere allowed the girls to unwind before they begin Preliminary Competitions this Tuesday, September 10, Wednesday, September 11 and Thursday, September 12.

It would not be a traditional Atlantic City homecoming without paying tribute to the iconic Steel Pier on the Atlantic City Boardwalk. The 53 contestants had a fun-filled night on amusement rides and playing carnival games with one another. The contestants were delighted as they whirled on The Crazy Mouse roller coaster and floated through the air on the Pirate Ship.

These beautiful 53 Miss America contestants will now begin the countdown to the crown, live from Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City on September 15th airing live on ABC at 9:00 p.m. EST.

A special thanks to The Hard Rock Café and Steel Pier for hosting this magical evening of entertainment and Boardwalk fun for the contestants! It was another wonderful Atlantic City memory for them to treasure!

The 2014 Miss America Contestants Attend The Blondie Concert At The Golden Nugget

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With an intense schedule of preparations for this week’s 2014 Miss America Competition, airing live from Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall at 9 p.m. EST on ABC, the 53 beautiful Miss America enjoyed a special concert featuring the famed American rock band Blondie at the Golden Nugget Casino in Atlantic City. The Golden Nugget graciously hosted the Class of 2014, who will begin Preliminary Competitions beginning on Tuesday, September 10, Wednesday, September 11 and Thursday, September 12.

The contestants were all smiles as they danced to Blondie’s greatest hits. Known for their upbeat stage presence and plethora of top U.S. hits, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame-inducted band kept everyone in great spirits as they performed some of their popular songs from the ‘70s and ’80s.

One contestant will end her journey on an especially high rock-n-roll note when she is crowned Miss America during the Competition’s highly anticipated return to Atlantic City on September 15.