Big Damn Heroes: Nina Davuluri and Crystal Lee

[Content note: GIFS, mentions of racism]

Meet Nina Davuluri. Nina Davuluri just won the Miss America contest, and is now Miss America 2014. And she’s pretty fucking awesome.

Nina Davuluri, Miss America

1. Her platform was “celebrating diversity through cultural competency.” When I first heard that, I had *no idea* what it meant. But once you look it up, it turns out it’s fucking awesome. Cultural competency means developing an awareness of your own cultural viewpoint, and then learning to understand, communicate with, and interact with people from all kinds of different cultures and socio/ethnic backgrounds.

Uh… amazing, right? Social justice-y, right?

Damn, woman.

2. She’s the first Indian-American – and Asian-American – Miss America. And yeah, there have been some racist motherfuckers who’ve been  oppressive assholes about this, but that doesn’t take away from Nina Davuluri’s very real accomplishment. Nina Davuluri is damn cool. And talented. And smart.

And she knew she was making history.  When Nina Davuluri was one of the last two women standing, alongside Miss California’s Crystal Lee – also an Asian-American woman – she said: “We’re both so proud. We’re making history right here, standing here as Asian-Americans.”

3. She makes terrible jokes.

Nina Davaluri, bad joke, GIF

Nina Davuluri

Damn it, she’s got my favorite sense of humor. AND she’s got an adorable embarrassed smile!

*Swoon*

4. Her talent was really fucking amazing – a fusion piece that combined bollywood dance with classical indian training.

Apparently, she chose her talent against the advice of her team, who thought it was “too foreign” for american judges. To which Nina Davuluri was like “Fuck you” and won the WHOLE DAMN THING.

Ugh, I want to be her when I grow up. Ridiculously talented and super-brave.

5. She’s a nerd.

Nina Davuluri cosplay, star wars, lightsaber, Miss America, Miss Geek America

[Okay, so, apparently, this picture is photoshopped. And I am terrible and can't detecting photoshopping. *headdesk*, Which basically means that... this particular photo is photoshopped. But everything else in the post stands - she's still a fan of Star Trek and Star Wars, she's still a nerd etc. 
Also, who photoshopped this? Was it her? Because that would be adorable. Was it fans? Was it peopel who liked her? I don't even know!]

YUP.

She cosplays. She loves Star Trek, Star Wars and anything Science Fiction. And she knows R2-D2 (don’t disillusion me. THAT IS R2-D2 IN THIS PICTURE AND NINA DAVULURI IS HIS BEST FRIEND)

She has a degree in brain behavior and cognitive science. She wants to be a doctor. She’s going into traditionally male fields and she’s a geek and a girl, and she’s fucking awesome.

I wonder what kind of SF books she loves. Maybe I’ll see her at a convention sometime!

And Nina Davuluri isn’t the only awesome nerdy WOC in the Miss America Pageant. The first runner-up, Crystal Lee, is Chinese-American. She graduated with a BA and an MA from Stanford in FOUR years. Her platform is women in STEM fields (awesome). She’s interned for DropBox, and she wants to start her own tech company. Her talent is Ballet-en-pointe, because HOLY SHIT.

It’s easy to focus on the disgusting racism that’s been happening around Nina Davuluri’s coronation. But don’t just talk about the racists. Talk about the awesome women they’re trying to erase through their racism. Don’t let their voices dominate the conversation.

Crystal Lee

The top two women at the Miss America pageant this year were both WOC. They were both hard-core nerds  who study STEM, They care about women and cultural diversity in tech fields. They like Star Wars and cosplaying. They’re going to start tech companies and promote diversity. They’re remarkable women. And it’s a remarkable thing, to look at the Miss America pageant, and see exactly who’s winning – STEM women! Nerds! Women of Color!

Crystal Lee and Nina Davuluri

As a fellow nerd, ladies – I salute you!

And I’m inspired by you. You’re Big Damn Heroes.

(Hey, geeks of america – could we wrangle a con invitation for Nina Davuluri or Crystal Lee? Wouldn’t that be awesome? I think it would be awesome)

****

Full credit goes to 

Thinkspeakstress on tumblr

Arturo R. Garcia at Racialicious

Lakshmi Gandhi at The Aerogram

and David Brothers writing “Racists React To [thing]” posts are just passive white supremacy

for making me check my white privilege, waking me the fuck up and reminding me to stop focusing so much on the racists and start focusing on the people they were actively erasing. I really appreciate the call-out. Thank you.

Note: I realize there are a shit-ton of problems with Miss America. I am aware. It’s never been my favorite institution either. But this post is not a place to complain about how terrible Miss America is. It’s to celebrate the accomplishments of the amazing women who’ve been erased by racists – and people talking about racists. So please don’t comment about the problems with the pageant *on this particular post*. 


5 Comments on “Big Damn Heroes: Nina Davuluri and Crystal Lee”

  1. […] Miss America is a Nerd! (not really tech, but awesome) […]

  2. CaitieCat says:

    What amazing women. And much as I don’t like beauty pageants myself, I don’t feel I’m queen of the feminists to tell other women what they want to do with their body, and I won’t insult their intelligence by suggesting they don’t recognize the patriarchal effect on their choices, just as sex workers and exotic dancers and so on. People can be fans of problematic things, and still be good people. They’re both very beautiful, both in their brains and their bodies, and if there’s going to be a beauty pageant, that’s the kind of women I’d want to win it.

  3. […] article that made me grin the most this week was a tribute to Nina Davuluri, and the one that made me think was this discussion of psychoanalysis and […]

  4. Brynx says:

    I’ve been watching this show drop dead diva on Netflix. Call me crazy, but even after they adjusted some of the dynamics between races, they still only have white guys as angels – apparently blacks as judges are the new staple, but black and other races can’t be divine. Neither can they be beautiful. Ugghhh … it goes on.

  5. oufg says:

    Wow! These women are amazing! I always have mixed feelings over Beauty Pageants, but here these ladies show how to use for them for good :)


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