Nina Davuluri talking about her personal experience at Northwestern. Photo by Michelle Liu / North by Northwestern

On Oct. 11, Nina Davuluri, most recognized as the first Miss America of Indian descent in 2014, spoke to a small group of students about her personal experiences and her work at the Cahn Auditorium at Northwestern University.

Davuluri was invited as the Fall Speaker by Northwestern’s South Asian Student Alliance. “We were really looking for someone who has made a big impact not just in the South Asian community, but in the world as a whole, and there’s no doubt that ever since Nina became Miss America in 2014, she’s done a lot,” said Weinberg junior and SASA Co-President Aditi Rathori.

"Promoting diversity was something I had done by entire life, and because of the platform that I was given, I was able to take it to the next level,” Davuluri said.

Many members of the predominantly South Asian audience were reminded of watching Davuluri’s win when they were younger and the impact it had on the South Asian community. McCormick sophomore Rhea Ramarya distinctly remembers watching the crowning moment with her friends and family.

Davuluri started the event with a brief background of her life leading to Miss America and the work she’s done since before opening the conversation to the audience with a Q&A.

During the hour, Davuluri answered many questions about her identity and how it has affected her life, including the stereotypes she’s faced from different communities, her Miss America experience and her schooling. She also described her experiences working with the Obama administration, her travels to India in advocating for women’s education and her plans for the future, including a startup and her current involvement in creating a documentary about the skin-lightening industry.

At the end, Davuluri left the students with two pieces of advice. “It may seem obvious, but try, try again,” Davuluri said, regarding both her experiences in Miss America and in getting into her dream university. “Just know that there’s always a way.” Her second piece of advice reflected the various comments she received throughout her life as an Indian-American woman. “Know that every word that we say has influence and impact and we have the choice to make that in a negative or positive way,” she said.

Attendees praised the intimate nature of the event. Weinberg senior Jissmaria Karickal liked that it felt like a close conversation with Davuluri herself and that so many people had the chance to ask questions.

“It’s also nice to hear from someone who’s kind of been in the popular Indian American part of American society what her input was for subjects that we all think about,” said Karickal.