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Miss America And Diversity Now

We talk with the new Miss America — Nina Davuluri — on diversity now in this country, and how it’s working.

Miss New York Nina Davuluri performs during the Miss America 2014 pageant, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP)

Miss New York Nina Davuluri performs during the Miss America 2014 pageant, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013, in Atlantic City, N.J. (AP)

We could talk plenty just about the Miss America pageant itself, and what it does, or did, to and around women. Objectification, all that.

And then there’s the race angle. It was all white for so long, but not lately. Eight African-American Miss Americas from Vanessa Williams on.  A beautiful Hawaii-born Filipino.

And then came Miss America 2014, Nina Davuluri.  An Indian-American beauty dancing Bollywood fusion in Atlantic City.  Twitter lit up.  Some of it ugly.  So where are we, really, with American diversity?

This hour, On Point:  Miss America is with us.  The issue is diversity.

- Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Nina Davuluri, Miss America 2014, the first Indian-American Miss America. (@NinaDavuluri)

Anand Giridharadas, columnist for the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. (@anandwrites)

Tyson Brown, professor of sociology at Vanderbilt University. (@tysonbrown)

From Tom’s Reading List

The Daily Beast: Changing Western Beauty Ideals: Nina Davuluri and Julie Chen — ‘I’ve always viewed Miss America as the girl next door, and the girl next door is evolving as diversity in America evolves,’ Nina Davuluri said last weekend before becoming the first beauty queen of Indian descent to be crowned Miss America. Also on stage was runner-up Crystal Lee, a Chinese-American and Miss California 2013. ‘We’re making history right here, standing here as Asian-Americans,’ Davuluri said of the duo.”

The Nation: Miss America Nina Davuluri Is Not a Symbol of Progress — “We can’t let this nasty display of racism back us into a corner. As tempting as it might be, to suggest that Davuluri’s win signifies progress for South Asians in America is to defend the Miss America pageant itself. And there isn’t really much about Miss America that could be considered progress for anyone (except maybe the steady decline in ratings over the last forty years, that might be a sign of progress). Miss America’s role in the public imagination has always been the product of objectification. It’s a beauty pageant after all, and the winner embodies the ideal American woman—prized as an object of beauty.”

Associated Press: Miss America Nina Davuluri brushes off racist criticism after victory — “The Miss America pageant has crowned its first winner from an Indian background – an aspiring doctor who plans to use the $50,000 (£31,000) prize money to fund her studies – sparking a flood of racist criticism on social media. ‘I’m so happy this organisation has embraced diversity,’ 24-year-old Nina Davuluri said in her first press conference, moments after winning the crown in Atlantic City. ‘I’m thankful there are children watching at home who can finally relate to a new Miss America.'”

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