On April 20, 1989 in Syracuse, New York, Nina Duvulari was born to Hindu Telugu parents who had emigrated from Vijayawada, Andhra Pradesh, India. Sheela Davuluri is an information technology specialist while Chaudhury Davuluri is an OB/GYN, and Nina Davuluri’s elder sister is a medical student at SUNY Medical University. Nina also wishes to attend medical school and follow her father’s footsteps in becoming a physician. Her family moved to Fayettesville, New York in 2007; but Davuluri attended Michigan State University and then University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, graduating with a B.S. degree in Brain, Behavior & Cognitive Science. To help her pay for college, Davuluri started participating in pageants. Because she was named Miss Michigan’s Outstanding Teen in 2006 and was first runner-up at Miss America’s Outstanding Teen in 2007, she was able to earn $25.000 in scholarships and graduate debt-free. After a 5 year hiatus, Davuluri joined pageants again to save up money for medical school. In 2012, she was first runner up for Miss New York and finally won it in 2013.
Moving on, Davulri entered the Miss America pageant held at Atlantic City, New Jersey. After catchy introductions, the “America’s Choice” portion of the pageant came first. The top 14 contestants were able to proceed: the swimsuit portion. After that, it was down to 12. The evening wear and talent portion, in which Davuluri performed a Bollywood dance, brought the total number of contestants to 5. The question portion is the final part of the competition. Davuluri was asked about her thoughts on Julie Chen’s decision to have plastic surgery to have her eyes look less Asian. To this question, she responds that she wouldn’t want to change someone’s looks and for everyone to be confident in who they are. Although she doesn’t agree with plastic surgery, she understood how Julie Chen felt and why she chose to go through with the surgery. In the end, Nin Dauluri won and became the first American of Indian heritage to win. Miss Crytal Lee of California was first runner-up, and Miss Kelsey Griswold of Oklahoma was second runner-up.
Davulri’s win was met with mixed reactions. Many people were supportive of her; others, however, were infuriated because Davuluri was not “American” enough, even calling her a terrorist. However, it remains unquestionable that Davuluri has inspired more interest than any other Miss America in a long time. Graciously, she brushed off the negative comments and said that she viewed herself as “first and foremost American”. She remains optimistic and looks to applying medical school with the $50,000 that she had won from the pageant. She said that she was thankful that the people would accept diversity in the competition. Winning this pageant has also been a great feat for Davuluri because she had struggled with bulimia and battled to get into a healthy weight range only a few years before entering the Miss America pageant.