, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 26 – Nina Davuluri has been the subject of my admiration since she was crowned Miss America in 2014. So when news came that she was coming to Nairobi to attend the sixth Global Entrepreneurship Summit, I made a case to attend.
Her speech at the summit was a moving one; she believes in women and she wants to see them empowered especially through entrepreneurship.
And she is right in pushing for such an agenda. For instance, when her term as Miss America 2014 ended, Davuluri branched out on her own and is today flourishing as an advocate and a public speaker.
“I wanted more than anything to venture into business and do something on my own, but it was not easy. I however persisted,” she told the audience that comprised delegates, panellists and media among others.
Davuluri, 26, also spoke about the challenges she faced while starting out, saying it is never easy to take the first step but went ahead to encourage them to do so. She also encouraged the society to provide women with equal opportunities as women had the ability to change the world.
But it is the one-on-one conversation that I had with her after the summit that moved me.
Davuluri, who is of Indian decent but born and raised in America, faced major backlash upon getting crowned as Miss America. To break it down, the Internet went ablaze the following day after she was crowned accusing her of being too dark becoming the second Miss America is face colourism after Miss America 1984 Vanessa Williams. She was also the first beauty pageant of that nature to face xenophobic and Islam extremism accusations.
“I faced a lot of criticism because of my skin complexion. Some people felt that I was too dark an Indian to win such a pageant. Others also called a terrorist and an Islamic extremist just because of winning the title. Some even said I would not have won had I been in an Indian competition,”
She however is not a Muslim; neither is she an Indian citizen.
Davuluri is therefore best suited to champion women empowerment hence my admiration towards her. She is after all one of the few beauty pageant winner who monetize their crown and build something from it.
“If you have a dream, go out and live it. Do not give excuses,” she explained.
The Miss America title was however not her first. She had been crowned Miss New York the previous year getting her into similar trouble online although in smaller amounts. She had also previously won other beauty pageants.
“By the time I was being chosen as Miss America, I had prepared myself on what was to come, the backlash especially,” she explained.
A bright moment tainted by something that was out of her control.