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.