Carol Anne Costa: Nina Davuluri: Beauty and the Beasts

Thursday, September 26, 2013


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Soon after the crowning of Nina Davuluri as the new Miss America, there was a wave of racist backlash.

We like to think since the election of our first black President we are living in a post racial USA. Well my hopes for moving our nation closer to that reality were definitely dashed in the moments following the crowning of our new, beautiful and totally American Miss America, Nina Davuluri. Davuluri was born on April 20, 1989 in Syracuse, New York according to her Miss America biography. She attended the University of Michigan and won several scholastic honors and graduated in 2012 with a degree in Brain Behavior and Cognitive Science. Nina hopes to attend medical school and become a physician. Her platform issue ironically is 'Celebrating Diversity through Cultural Competency: Beauty, brains and poise'…sounds like a real American success story to me. What blew up in the social feeds following her win was in my view, ghastly and great. You see, not only was Miss America barraged with racist and ugly commentary, conversely, she was shielded by American folks who came to her defense by celebrating her achievement and calling out the twits on Twitter.

Truth be told, I clicked back and forth and did not catch pageant in its entirety, but I clicked over in time for the suspenseful ending. I was thrilled to see this gorgeous and smart woman of Indian heritage win. I remembered vividly how terrific it was when Vanessa Williams was crowned as the first African American to capture the sash. I immediately thought, awesome! Shortly thereafter I was checking my Twitter feed and read mentions of racial intolerance targeted at the New Miss America, I followed some threads to a sea of hate filled, ignorant posts from behind the anonymity of a keyboard. I will not dignify the comments by including the terrible language of racial and ethnic defamation in this column. Just know they screamed of intolerance and stupidity. As much as we celebrate diversity and have, as a nation elected an African American President, we are by no means post racial.

What is Post Racial Anyway?

Urban Diction defines Post Racial this way: “A term used to describe a society or time period in which discussions around race and racism have been deemed no longer relevant to current social dynamics. Popularized after the election of Barack Obama to the presidency of the United States of America in 2009.” Post racial is a concept that is a feel good thought, a place of Nirvana void of prejudice and brimming over with mercy and compassion. Many of us want to get there but the journey to a post racial society will be long and winding and like a light on the horizon it gets brighter but remains seemingly out of reach. But, we must keep marching. And, to the beautiful, talented and smart Miss America, Nina Davuluri, I say, “Congratulations, you are a wonderful example of the American dream. Your grace in the face of these racial slurs was exemplary.” In a post-win WSJ interview, Davuluri spoke directly to the subject given the question she was asked during the competition regarding Julie Chen’s decision to have plastic surgery to make her eyes look less Asian. To which she responded in part…“the girl next door is evolving.” I hope we are too. I am proud Nina will represent the USA and promote a platform of diversity. We have a long journey to travel and with young people such as Nina in the lead progress will surely come.

What beauty contests can teach us

Some may find this surprising but I do enjoy reputable pageant competitions based on achievement and promoting education and scholarship, as the competitors are not only beautiful they are smart, savvy, and representative of young women who use their entire skill set to win. Can I say that? Some of my best friends are beauty queens! We in Southern New England should be particularly proud. We have a long history of smart, talented and gorgeous gals. Our very own Marilyn Cocozza Trillo finished 3rd runner up in the 1968 Miss America pageant and won the preliminary talent competition belting out, “I Have Confidence”. We can boast of the gracious and poised Olivia Culpo, the current Miss Universe, an honors student with incredible musical talent. Then there is Amy Diaz, Miss Earth United States 2009, Miss Rhode Island USA 2008, and contestant on CBS’s Amazing Race this season. Diaz is a Classical High School grad who holds dual master degrees in business and sports management. The newly crowned Miss Rhode Island Teen USA 2014, is Bay View’s Gabriella Maggiacomo, also impressive, as she can dance and figure out a complex physics problem without s missing a beat. How about the up and comer from Massachusetts, Caitlyn Martin, National American Miss Massachusetts Preteen and Miss USA Ambassador Preteen, she may be diminutive but she is a power house whose charity work and singing voice are simply uplifting. I am lucky and proud to call these women friends. These competitions showcase diversity, talent and yes, American exceptionalism.

I have always felt fair competition whether in a pageant, a science fair, a spelling bee or on the field of play is good. I will be the first to say I am not a believer in no score tee ball or soccer, etc. Last time I looked, we are graded in every step of life. To be a good loser and a gracious winner is a valuable life lesson; the earlier it is learned the better. I am certain the twits filled with hate and racism who felt compelled to weigh in missed that life lesson.


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Carol Costa is a public relations and community outreach specialist; she has experience in both the public and private sectors. She is the Chairwoman of the Scituate Democratic Town Committee and has extensive community affairs and public relations experience. She previously served in the Rhode Island Judiciary for nearly 17 years. Carol also enjoyed a successful development stint at the Diocese of Providence as Associate Director for Catholic Education and is currently a public housing manager for the Johnston Housing Authority. Her work has been published in several local outlets including GoLocal, Valley Breeze, The Rhode Island Catholic, and Currents Magazine.


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