Miss America learned Indian dancing during summer vacations to visit her grandparents. Nina Davuluri traveled from her Michigan home in the Lake Michigan city of St. Joseph to the southeastern Indian city of Vijayawada in the state of Andhra Pradesh.
“We’d stay for a month. We had a dance teacher come every day,” recalls Davuluri. “And I remember there were days I’d say, ‘No, I don’t want to dance today.’ ”
Now, six weeks into her reign as Miss America, the first Indian American to win the title wishes she could showcase more often the Bollywood routine that dazzled the Miss America judges and audience.
Indian dance — from its classic form to crowd-pleasing Bollywood — is part and parcel of who she is, said Davuluri, who performed an Indian routine the first time she competed in the Miss America pageant organization, winning the 2006 title of Michigan’s Outstanding Teen, and later first runner-up at the national contest.
Davuluri’s family moved to St. Joseph when Nina was 10 and she attended Michigan State University for one year, graduating from the University of Michigan in 2011. Her family relocated to the Syracuse, N.Y., area in 2007. She brings her crown to Ann Arbor on Friday when she will address about 300 attendees at the fifth annual India Business Conference at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business.
“She’s just a phenomenal young lady. Brilliant. Well-versed. And with her personal platform of cultural diversity, I think she’ll really make a mark for herself, her country and the program,” said Shelley Taylor, the Muskegon-based executive director of the Miss Michigan program. “She won as Miss New York, but she’ll always be part of Michigan.”
At the University of Michigan, Davuluri majored in cognitive science and brain studies. She continued to dance, making the cut for an Indian dance squad called Maya, which performed on campus. Sneha Bhattacharyya, 22, who grew up in Novi and is now a management consultant in New York City, said Davuluri was a mentor to her on the dance team.
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