Nina Davuluri, Miss America Winner: Too Dark-Skinned to Win in India?

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Nina Davuluri of Syracuse, N.Y., is your Miss America 2014.

Striving to become the first Indian-American Miss America, she pitched herself as the "diverse" contestant from the get-go and stuck to that theme.

Nina Davuluri Miss America
Nina Davuluri Image

Nina Davuluri danced to a Bollywood song in the talent portion even though insiders reportedly warned her the performance would be "too foreign."

The risk paid off, clearly. She won, succeeding Mallory Hagan.

While plenty of the usual racist idiots took to Twitter to decry Davuluri's win with disturbing ignorance, most reactions online were happy and congratulatory.

The irony, however, at least according to Indian and Indian-American writers, is that Davuluri, who is dark-skinned, may have fared less well in India.

In India, skin color is described by many as a national obsession, and you likely wouldn't see someone of her complexion in a pageant, much less winning one.

One writer, Lakshmi Chaudhury, quipped Monday that Indians prefer their beauty queens "vanilla, preferably accessorized with blue contact lenses."

She cites a report from training sessions for the 2003 Miss India contest.

Every contestant was "taking some sort of medication to alter her skin, particularly in colour" according to the embedded writer, Susan Runkle.

The winner that year, Sonali Nagrani, looks more European than Indian.

Regimens were prescribed by the pageant's in-house doctor, a London-trained plastic surgeon with "disturbingly casual" view to skin-lightening treatments.

"'When an Indian man looks for a bride, he wants one who is tall, fair and slim, and fairer people always get jobs first,'" Runkle says the doctor told her.

Some tweeters countered otherwise, citing Priyanka Chopra and Lara Dutta, both Indian pageant winners of the last decade with darker skin tones.

Still, it's an interesting commentary on discrimination based on skin color, and how it varies from the U.S. to the nation where Nina's parents were born.

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