Winner of Miss America 2014 helps break traditional beauty stereotypes

Gabriella Monico

An unexpected occurrence happened at this year’s Miss America Pageant: An Indian woman snagged the crown. And the best part of all was her embracement of her beautiful dark skin and her pride in her heritage. The Miss America Pageant did a wonderful job at disregarding race and picking the best contestant out of all the talented hopefuls, despite skin color. This choice broke both national and international stereotypes of beauty that have traditionally favored lighter skin tones.

Nina Davuluri, a darker skinned Indian-American woman, accepts her crown at the Miss America 2014 pageant. Davuluri is the first Indian American woman to win Miss America,which upset many people who did not recognize the step  towards race equality. Photo by AP Photo/Mel Evans

Nina Davuluri, a darker skinned Indian-American woman, accepts her crown at the Miss America 2014 pageant. Davuluri is the first Indian American woman to win Miss America,which upset many people who did not recognize the step towards race equality. Photo by AP Photo/Mel Evans

Nina Davuluri was an exceptional contestant. According to CNN‘s biography, Davuluri was much more than a pretty face. This towards race equality.
Photo by AP Photo/Mel Evans[/caption]intelligent young woman won the Michigan Merit Award while studying at the University of Michigan, from where she graduated with a degree in Brain Behavior and Cognitive Science.
In addition to being a student, Davuluri is also a passionate philanthropist and works relentlessly to fight bulimia and obesity, having struggled with both as a child. Overcoming these personal struggles helped give Davuluri the strength to win Miss America 2014, despite not being the typical “pageant queen.”

Furthermore it was Davuluri’s pride in her Indian heritage that helped her win the crown. For the talent portion of the competition she performed a traditional Bollywood dance, prepared in part by famous Bollywood choreographer, Naku Dev Mahajan. Davuluri impressed the judges not by hiding her Indian descent, but by proudly exhibiting it.

This embracement of her Indian heritage manifested itself in Davuluri’s platform campaign “Celebrating Diversity through Cultural Competency.” She extolled the beauty of her culture while running for Miss America, refusing to blend into the archetypical Miss America role prophesied to be filled this year.

Davuluri also breached Indian stereotypes of beauty. In most parts of India, lighter skin is traditionally considered more beautiful than darker skin. Both times that Indian women have won the Miss Universe Pageant, 1994 and 2000 , they have been light-skinned Indians The 2013 Femina Miss India winner was also light skinned.

The beauty trend has consistently been in favor of lighter-skinned Indian women. This traditional prejudice against darker skin tones can be seen in the use and advertisement of “Fairness Cream.” These creams target women by claiming that confidence and success follow application of the ointment, insinuating that light skin color is a prerequisite for beauty. Davuluri has challenged these traditional views of beauty and proved to the national and international community that dark-skinned women are just as beautiful as their lighter-skinned contemporaries.

A new precedent has been set— beauty comes in all skin tones. By crowning Davuluri Miss America, the pageant has taken steps towards changing preconceptions of beauty and rejecting racism. People who look up to these women as more than beauty icons, but as role models, can feel beautiful no matter their skin tone — those who think that beauty came in exactly one shade have a lot to reconsider. The message that there is no one color of beauty should ring throughout America, India and any other place that has this conception of beauty.