First Indian-American wins Miss America title

NEW YORK: Nina Davuluri, 24, won the 2014 Miss America pageant on Sunday, giving the prize to Miss New York for the second year in a row.

Davuluri, an aspiring physician, defeated representatives from 49 other states, the District of Columbia, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

Contestants were judged on a personal interview, a talent demonstration, an on-stage question, and their appearance in evening gowns and swimwear during the two-hour nationally televised event.

Davuluri, an Indian-American, performed a Bollywood fusion dance and was asked about revelations that American television personality Julie Chen had plastic surgery on her eyes. Davuluri answered that she personally was opposed to plastic surgery and said that one’s diversity should be celebrated.

The field was narrowed to Davuluri and Miss California Crystal Lee, the first runner-up. Just before the results were announced, Davuluri said, “We are making history right here as Asian-Americans.”

Last year’s winner, Mallory Hagan from New York, crowned her successor.

Several contestants made headlines during preliminary competitions. Miss Iowa, Nicole Kelly, was born without her left forearm and said the competition helped her promote a platform of overcoming disabilities. Theresa Vail, Miss Kansas and a sergeant in the Kansas Army National Guard, became the first contestant to show off tattoos.

The 93-year-old beauty pageant returned to its hometown of Atlantic City, New Jersey, this year after an eight-year stretch in Las Vegas.

The pageant’s return to the New Jersey shore could help the local economy, which was hard hit by last year’s Superstorm Sandy. The Atlantic City Alliance, an economic development group, estimated it would bring in about $30 million in business.

The pageant was televised live by ABC, which picked up the contest again in 2011 after dropping it in 2004 because of a steep ratings decline. Miss America has seen its popularity ebb and flow over its nearly 100-year history and it has been the target of critics who say the pageant format objectifies women.

The judges were 2004 Miss America winner Deidre Downs Gunn, the New York Knicks’ Amar’e Stoudemire, Lance Bass from the boy band ‘N Sync, comedian Mario Cantone, violinist Joshua Bell and television chef Carla Hall.