First Indian-American woman to win Miss America spreads message of inclusion
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Having an open conversation with one who carries an opposing belief is important in understanding cultural differences, said the first Indian-American woman to win a Miss America competition.
Nina Davuluri, who won the title of Miss America 2014, addressed an audience at Purdue University’s Loeb Playhouse on Thursday evening, as the keynote speaker for International Women’s Week. The event was co-sponsored by a number of Purdue student organizations, along with the Brian Lamb School of Communication and the Purdue LGBTQ Center.
Davuluri’s presentation described key events in her life, from a childhood in a predominantly-white Oklahoma town, to receiving racial backlash after being nominated Miss America. She emphasized the importance of persistence in combating racism and promoting cultural awareness.
“This is a fight we have to continue fighting,” said Davuluri. “The problem isn’t going to be solved overnight, and it does take time for people to use their voices."
Audience members were welcomed to ask Davuluri questions in a Q&A session after her speech; many focused on the racial tensions in our country today. When asked about the moment she overcame cultural prejudice, Davuluri pointed to a moment in high school, when she performed a classical Indian dance routine.
“So many of my peers and classmates were actually really curious,” said Davuluri. “They were curious because they had never been exposed to it before.”
Davuluri’s final words to the audience included a message of hope for the future.
“How do you want to be remembered?” asked Davuluri. “Every time you speak with someone, you have the power to influence them in a positive or negative way; and that’s absolutely within our control.”