Miss America Nina Davuluri talks weight struggles, bulimic past and racist backlash

Miss America Nina Davuluri hosted a charity ride at Flywheel Sports on October 2, 2013 in New York City.  Credit: Getty
Miss America Nina Davuluri hosted a charity ride at Flywheel Sports on Oct. 2 in New York City.
Credit: Getty

Nina Davuluri, newly crowned Miss America 2013, worked up a sweat Wednesday night during a spin class for charity at Flywheel on the Upper West Side in New York. But even after the high octane workout, she was still all smiles as she spoke with Metro about her journey to becoming Miss America and what’s next for her.

It’s hard to imagine that the incredibly fit woman, who flaunted her bikini body during the Miss America competition, was 53 pounds heavier just two years ago. Davuluri credited treatment and counseling as her first steps toward a healthy lifestyle: She struggled with bulimia in her youth and overcame it with the help of professionals and her supportive family, though it wasn’t easy.

“My family comes from India, so they didn’t necessarily understand what I was going through,” she told Metro. “But with the help of my sister, they opened their hearts and minds to be a part of it and be a part of my struggle.”

Davuluri said she believes the media is a major contributor to America’s eating disorder problem. “They portray this image that you need to be skinny and that sends a really negative message to young girls,” she said. “You don’t need to be skinny. You don’t need to be a certain size to be healthy.”

Davuluri added that she is trying to help end the stigma associated with eating disorders by speaking openly about her struggles with bulimia.

Even after overcoming her illness, Davuluri said she  still had a long way to go before she felt confident about her body. “Frankly, I was too embarrassed to go to the gym when I was heavier,” she said. “I did Jillian Michaels DVDs at home and started eating healthier, more [wholesome] foods.”

After losing 30 pounds on her own, Davuluri worked with a trainer for another year to get into Miss America shape, which she pointed out promotes “healthy” bodies over “skinny.”

Davuluri said though her Indian immigrant parents were supportive of her decision to partake in the Miss America pageant, they were also skeptical, and it took a little work convincing them to let her get on stage in a swimsuit.

“That was their biggest problem,” she recalled, “They come from a very culturally conservative background. But they loved the scholarship money!” she laughed. “I won a total of $60,000 in scholarship money, so they were really understanding about that.”

Davuluri is the first Indian-American Miss America, and she didn’t push her heritage to the sidelines during the contest: She performed a Bollywood fusion dance for the talent portion of the show. “I can’t tell you how many people said, ‘If you’re serious about Miss America, change your talent, because Bollywood will never win,’” she laughed. “But I knew that if I wanted to win Miss America, it had to be on my own terms – and it worked out OK.”

The dance, and Davuluri’s race in general, famously attracted a barrage of racist tweets, but the pageant queen brushed off the vitriolic comments and said she had steeled herself for them because she had received similar comments after winning the title of Miss New York (Davuluri hails from Syracuse.) “For every one negative tweet, post or comment that I received, there were thousands of positive remarks – not just from Americans, but from people all over the world,” she said. “And that is really incredible.”

Davuluri will soon begin her tour across the country as Miss America, and plans to attend medical school afterward. She said struggling with bulimia has led her to consider a future in mental health, but nothing is set in stone yet. “Psychiatry is on the radar, but I’m keeping my doors open,” she said.


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
International

'Barack Obama cheats on Michelle' claims Japanese politician…

A senior Japanese politician has marred Barack Obama's official visit to Tokyo with bizarre claims that the President cheats on his wife Michelle. Kazuyuki Hamada,…

International

British Royal family devastated by freak NY death…

The British royals have been left devastated by the death of Mark Shand, younger brother of Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, after a freak fall in…

Local

DA: Homeless man severely beat by men in…

Two former college football players pleaded not guilty to the alleged severe beating of a homeless man in Allston earlier this year.

National

Hamas, Abbas's PLO announce reconciliation agreement

The Gaza-based Islamist group Hamas and President Mahmoud Abbas's Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) agreed on Wednesday to a unity pact.

Television

‘Survivor: Cagayan’ recap: Episode 9

It was only an hour-long episode, but there's a lot to cover this week. The drama of Survivor strikes again as the identity of the…

Going Out

Thursty: Revamped Audubon is back in action

Having been a long time fan of Trina's Starlite Lounge in Inman Square, one of my only complaints about the place is that there's only…

Entertainment

Here's what to do in Boston this weekend

MUSIC Huun Huur Tu Friday, 8 p.m. First Church in Cambridge 11 Garden St., Cambridge $28, 617-876-4275 www.worldmusic.org This group comes from the tiny nation…

Television

TV watch list, Wednesday, April 23: 'Suburgatory,' 'Modern…

'Suburgatory' The men of "Suburgatory" go camping and Tessa mentors a social outcast in a Miss Chatswin contest, which brings her, once again, into conflict…

NFL

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April 24…

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April 24 version

MLB

MLB video highlights: Red Sox top Yankees, 5-1

John Lackey shines, Pineda ejected in Red Sox win

NHL

Bruins - Red Wings Game 4 preview: Boston…

Bruins - Red Wings Game 4 preview: Boston greedy for more dominance

MLB

Fantasy baseball: Searching for early season prospects

It’s relatively rare for a mediocre 30-year-old hitter to suddenly go nuts offensively for 162 games. That’s why minor league prospects are so exciting.

Style

Pippa Middleton's Etsy pick: Golden Thread Jewelry

Get a look at the jewelry Pippa Middleton loves and find out how you can buy it too.

Parenting

What every parent needs to know to get…

Mom and author of "Small Talk," Tracey Blake, shares her five practical tips to help you develop your children's language skills.

Sex

Subway crush: Meet your soulmate on your commute

Read about a couple who has been 40 years after meeting on the train.

Tech

Happy birthday, Game Boy! The handheld console turns…

Nintendo's Game Boy turns 25 this week. To commemorate, we look at some of its better games, like "Tetris" and "The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening."