THE BLOG

Ignore The Racist Tweets -- Will An Indian Miss America Actually Change Anything?

09/16/2013 05:15 EDT | Updated 11/16/2013 05:12 EST

Moments after Indian-American Nina Davuluri was crowned Miss America 2013, a flood of haters on Twitter (surprise, surprise) were quick to point out the beauty queen's non-white ethnicity.

For some odd reason, angry individuals tweeted ignorant and racist remarks about Davuluri's and her so-called relation to al-Qaeda, 9/11, 7/11, and the demise of the American pageant industry by crowning an Arab. Idiots.

Davuluri, 24, who is the first contestant of Indian descent to be crowned Miss America, responded to her haters (and her fans) with a simple message of embracing diversity and rising above racism.

"I'm so happy this organization has embraced diversity,'' she said in a press conference. "I'm thankful there are children watching at home who can finally relate to a new Miss America.''

While she can certainly be a positive role model for other South Asian kids who are picked on for their brown skin, is being part of a beauty pageant the best way to send this message? As the history of pageants go, they've always been degrading.

Thousands of women from all over the world compete their best talents and parade in swimsuits and gowns, judged on their appearances and scored on their performances. It's become a circus, though some things have changed for the better because of years of boycotts and protests. Even though shows have stopped announcing contestants' breast, waist and hip measurements (ugh, this was a thing) the emphasis is squarely on how these women look.

These changes aside, pageants -- especially child pageants -- have been linked to increased body dissatisfaction, impulsive behaviours and the constant pressure to be and feel perfect.

So if Davuluri's message was to get kids to relate to her, is she biting more off than she can chew?

Sure, it's always nice to see a coloured, non-heterosexual (case in point Jenna Talackova) or disabled (this year's Miss Iowa was born without her left forearm) woman challenge the concept of ideal beauty and what it really means to be confident in your own skin.

Davuluri herself has also come a long way. She struggled with bulimia, and leading up to the pageant, tabloids (and even other contestants) had fat-shamed her for photos where she appeared up to 50 pounds heavier.

But as far as impact goes, I hope Davuluri can really make a difference and start an important conversation on racism and even body image. Right now, she still has the stage.





A closer look at the ceremony:

Miss America 2014