(Thanks to today.com for this image)
Nina Davuluri was crowned the 2014 Miss America last night and I almost went to wake up Ninjette to show her that a bit of history was being made. I was giddy with excitement to see that the runner up was Asian-American and the winner was Indian-American! I am a huge sucker for these pageants because I just love those beautiful gowns and watching the talent competition. I think it’s also because, secretly, I always wanted to be Miss America. In my own head, I was a beauty queen – despite my 5’1” stature. In college, my running joke with my best friend was that I was Miss Korea. I had the wave down pat.
The idea of beauty was always fascinating to me. I desperately wanted to have blue eyes with the double eye lids. My grandmother and great aunts were proud of my nose that was more raised rather than flat and small. It reminded them of Western noses and that was a good thing. (They apparently pulled at my little nose and clearly that effort paid off. Please do not do this to your own children.) Interestingly enough, Julie Chen (famous for being the host of Big Brother and a co-host on CBS’ The Talk) recently revealed her decision to do a common eye surgery among Asians. It was really too bad it was sparked because someone told her that she would not make it with her “Asian eyes.”
I don’t know who decided who or what would be considered beautiful, although, I have heard that symmetry helps. But more than outward beauty, the thing that concerns me is what our society considers to be the face of America. After Nina Davuluri won, there were a bunch of tweets from folks who were quiet upset. You can read about it here. Nobody cared that she was from New York (last year’s Miss America was Miss New York, too) or that she was intelligent. She was not considered American – but why? I don’t get it. Is it because I don’t have blue eyes or blonde hair? Is it my black hair? The shape of my eyes?
Yes, when you look at me, you will probably know that I am of Asian descent, but I was born in the United States and consider myself to be American. My daughter was born in the United States as well. She knows a handful of words in Korean, but English is her primary language. She is beautiful and worthy to be a Gap kids model. But I always wonder if she will doubt whether she is beautiful or not. I wonder if she will question her features or want to have blue eyes and blonde hair. I wonder if the way that she looks will stop her from doing or being whatever she works hard for like being on t.v. and making it big (if that’s what she wants to do).
It will be something that I will continue to wonder and I hope to help Ninjette have a strong foundation of love for herself and confidence in herself. But here is something that I do know for sure: There are not enough women who look like my daughter that are in the media or highlighted in our culture and society. Seeing someone who looks like you being the President of the United States or being chosen as Miss America or flying in a space shuttle or being a veterinarian – whatever you can think of – is powerful, valuable, and inspiring. I want that for my daughter – for all little girls growing up. I don’t want any little girl to think that anything is out of reach for them because 1) they are girls and/or 2) they are not Caucasian.
Growing up, I had big dreams because my parents encouraged it, but I encountered so many road blocks and little by little, my dreams got a bit smaller and smaller. There were many times that I thought to myself, “Oh, I can’t do this” or “I won’t be able to do this” or “They are not going to choose me for this because I’m Asian and a girl.” Doesn’t that totally suck? I think it does, especially because America, to me, is not represented by a white man.
I am so proud that Nina Davuluri is the 2014 Miss America! I hope that her time as Miss America will open many eyes to the fact that she truly is the face of America and a great representation of it. Maybe it will continue to help change the tide of what we all consider to be beautiful and to also remind us that we are a much more global country than we think.
Back to practicing my wave for Mrs. America! 😉
By the way, did you know that Macel Wilson was the first Asian American to win Miss U.S.A. in 1962???