Asian blood gives new life to pageant

Asian blood gives new life to pageant
The newly crowned Miss America Nina Davuluri (above) and pageant runner-up Crystal Lee. Their achievements meant that two out of three of the top spots in this year's competition went to Asian Americans.

In an era when you can find a place called Jaipur Junction serving briyani near a row of South Asian mom-and-pop stores and the Shiva Vishnu temple in an Ohio suburb the likes of Parma, it came as little surprise to most Americans that a woman of Indian descent is their newest "All-American girl".

Last Sunday, Nina Davuluri was crowned Miss America 2014 on a prime-time national television broadcast from Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Born in Syracuse, New York, to parents who emigrated from the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh, the 24-year-old became the first American of Indian descent to win.

This year's runner-up, 22-year-old San Francisco native Crystal Lee, boasts a Chinese heritage, giving Asian Americans two of the top three spots.

FROM NERD TO BEAUTY

Indian Americans have made their considerable presence felt in medicine, politics, education, business and science and their children have almost had a lock on the national spelling bee for years.

That has often typecast them as what Americans like myself, who wish we were as smart, affectionately term "nerds" or "geeks", perhaps best embodied by Rajesh Koothrappali on popular TV sitcom The Big Bang Theory, portrayed by Kunal Nayyar.

Despite her own aspirations to nerd-dom given her impressive scholastic achievements in disciplines most of us cannot define, let alone understand, Ms Nina Davuluri has now catapulted Indians into the realm of the beautiful people as well by winning the United States' premiere beauty pageant.

The new Miss America joins a growing list of influential Indian Americans that include governors Bobby Jindal of Louisiana - frequently named as a potential US presidential candidate - and Nikki Haley of South Carolina, and US Court of Appeals Judge for the District of Columbia Sri Srinivasan.

Familiar Indian-American faces here include neurosurgeon and CNN chief medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta; film director M. Night Shyamalan; Mindy Kaling, the star of her own hit TV sitcom The Mindy Project; and actor Kal Penn, best known for his role in the Harold and Kumar film series and TV drama House.


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