Beauty with brains is a phrase that aptly suits former Miss America 2014 Nina Davuluri. In the city on behalf of the US State Department to address key issues pertaining to women education, Nina says she is trying to capitalise on and bring about a positive change towards this issue — as being the first Indian-American to win the title allowed her to have a significant voice across the two countries.
Education to her is the primary means to women empowerment. Also, it’s important for women to help their own kind, she says. “We all need to work together to overcome this because it is not a gender issue but a human one.” It’s not possible to leave out 50 per cent of the world’s community without education and expect gender equality, she adds.
Another issue that is very close to her heart and which she works on closely is promoting diversity. “I was subjected to a lot of stereotypes and misconceptions pertaining Indian culture. I have been told so many things, including ‘You smell like curry’ to ‘Are you going to have an arranged marriage?’ I don’t think these questions are malicious but have more to do with their ignorance about our culture.”
She says the right approach to solve this jigsaw is to actually welcome such questions and address them appropriately. “It’s important to respect and communicate with each other in an honest way.”
As a child, Nina faced racism, which eventually strengthened her will to speak out about it.
“After the 9/11 attack there were a lot of xenophobic comments on colours that I had to face,” she says adding that even today she finds herself fighting stereotypes. “Winning the title was a great moment as it gave me a huge opportunity to finally talk about this issue on a bigger platform. For every negative comment I received hundreds of positives words of encouragement as well,” she says.
While she was born in New York, she spent three years initially in Vijayawada along with her grandparents.“I have very fond memories of this place and am very eager to go see them soon,” she says.