Nina Davuluri – Miss New York and now, Miss America 2013, hasn’t let hate-filled and racist comments about her victory ruin her moment. In fact, the American beauty says for the New York Daily News that she didn’t expect to win, but she was prepared for the backlash that followed. “It was something I wasn’t surprised about,” Davuluri told the New York Daily News. “I’d experienced those same kind of remarks when I’d won Miss New York and I knew if I won Miss America it would happen again.”

Nina Davuluri, Miss America
Davuluri's victory marks a significant shift for the pageant.

Of course, Davuluri’s victory as an Indian American woman represents a significant shift in the pageant’s tone, which ordinarily adheres to European beauty standards (with several notable exceptions, of course.) One of these exceptions was Vanessa Williams, who won Miss America exactly thirty years ago, in 1983. It’s no wonder then that out of all her supporters and mentors, Davuluri cites Williams as her biggest inspiration. “She had the similar response and backlash when she was crowned,” says Davuluri, who met Williams backstage at her Broadway show “The Trip to Bountiful.”

Nina Davuluri, Miss America 2014
Davuluri has risen above the negative comments.

“It just shows, in 30 years, yes, we’ve evolved, but how much further we have to go, because it’s a very similar conversation.” While Williams moved on to acting after her Miss America victory, Davuluri plans on continuing her medical education. In fact, the reason why she went into beauty pageantry in the first place, was so that she could pay for her tuition. Before the pageant, she studied pre-med and is now considering going into cognitive psychiatry after her one year as Miss America is finished. According to Davuluri, the medical profession has very strong roots in her family.

Nina Davuluri, Miss America 2014 Talent Competition
Davuluri performed a Hollywood fusion dance as her talent.

“Education was very much pushed in my household from day one,” she said to the News. “Going to med school or becoming a physician was the easy path. It was expected of me in my family.”

But Miss America’s desire to pursue a medical career was driven by more than just legacy. It was a powerful and personal experience that she had on a visit to an orphanage in Vijayawada, India, where her grandparents lived.

“A 4-year-old girl offered me her roll of bread that I had given her, and it was my enlightening revelation,” she said. “You realize that your purpose isn’t about you — it’s about your service to others. One way for me to do that was to become a physician.”

So congratulations to Miss America 2013 – with beauty, brains and ideals like hers, there couldn’t have been a better choice.

Nina Davuluri, Miss America 2014
She plans to devote her life to the service of others.