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
Local

Best nature spots for kids in New York…

When it comes to kids and nature, most U.S. parents agree: children should be spending more time outdoors. According to a recent survey by The…

Local

Easter 2014: The year's best bonnets

It's Easter, and that means it's time for Fifth Avenue to turn into a veritable catwalk of bonnet-wearers. The annual march, which kicks off at…

Local

Woman arrested for attempted kidnapping of baby in…

Authorities said that a Queens woman behind an attempted kidnapping of an 8-month-old baby boy was arrested on Saturday.

Local

Hate crime charge in attack on Sikh Columbia…

A man has been arrested and charged with a hate crime after he allegedly pulled the beard of a Sikh Columbia University professor as part…

Television

‘Mad Men’ recap: Season 7, Episode 2, ‘A…

Peggy and Lou are horrible, Bert's racist, Don is honest(ish) and Roger and Pete are frustrated. "A Day's Work" not quite worthy of "This Will Be Our Year."

Television

'Game of Thrones' recap: Season 4, Episode 3,…

The problem with the devil you know is that ignoring them doesn’t mean they simply lie in wait. It allows them time to do things…

Television

Discovery cancels 'Everest Jump Live' special in wake…

The Discovery Channel has indicated it will not be moving forward with "Everest Jump Live," a planned special about mountain climber Joby Ogwyn's effort to…

The Word

'X-Men' director Bryan Singer drama continues

  News broke late last week that "X-Men" and "The Usual Suspects" director Bryan Singer is being sued by a man who said Singer molested…

NHL

Rangers let chance at victory slip away in…

All the Rangers had to do was hold serve in a raucous Madison Square Garden — roaring in anticipation of putting a hated rival in a 2-0 series hole.

MLB

Yankees place Ivan Nova on DL with partially…

Yankees starter Ivan Nova was diagnosed with a partially torn UCL in his throwing elbow Sunday.

NHL

Rangers never thought opening round would be 'an…

You might have thought the Metropolitan Division semifinal series was going to be a rout after watching Game 1 Thursday night. The Rangers did not.

NHL

Rangers blow two-goal lead in Game 2 loss…

The Rangers got out to an early 2-0 lead in Game 2 and the Garden was rocking. But it went downhill quickly from there.

Travel

Packing: The one thing you need in your…

A new survey that looks at the travel habits of 50,000 people around the world has revealed that Western and Asian globetrotters have different priorities…

Home

Is your chair making it hard to talk?

Ever wished there was an office chair that could make impromptu meetings and discussions more private? The Cristiana Wing Chair is an asymmetrical armchair which…

Travel

Live large at these luxury hotels

From Thai boxing lessons and macabre Dracula tours to the Australian Outback, the Four Seasons hotel chain launched a series of new travel packages this…

Parenting

4 things that every summer camp should have

Alan Saltz, director of the 92nd street Y program lists things that every summer camp should have.