While Nina Davuluri claiming the Miss America 2014 title on Sunday night marked the first time an Indian American woman has won the coveted crown, merely focusing on Davuluri’s victory would be minimizing what a historic night it was for Asian American women overall.
When it came down to the final five, there were THREE Asian Americans in the running: Davuluri, Chinese American Miss California Crystal Lee and Chinese American hapa Miss Minnesota Rebecca Yeh.
Miss California’s Crystal Lee is a recent graduate of Stanford University (with not one, but two degrees: a bachelor’s in biology and a master’s in communication, which she earned in four years) who dreams of owning her own technology company in the future. She was runner-up to Nina Davuluri, and while the two of them squeezed each other’s hands, there was an instant realization that no matter who won, they’d both be making history. Crystal Lee is from San Francisco, her talent was ballet on pointe, and she earned some sympathy from viewers when her interview question involved her thoughts on Syria — something that even politicians are having a hard time explaining.
As fourth runner-up, Rebecca Yeh calls herself “a little bit of everything” and “a product of that great American melting pot.” Her dad is Chinese and her mom is German, Irish and Bohemian. Her talent was the violin, and her goal is to become a clinical pharmacist as well as a violin instructor. Her platform was “My Voice for Philip;” Philip is her older brother who was diagnosed with autism.
In addition to those two, there was another 22-year-old Crystal Lee in the running: Miss Hawaii. This Crystal Lee was born to a father from Hong Kong and a mother from Ohio, but raised in Waipahu, Hawaii. She graduated from the University of Hawaii, where she studied French, and her goal is to become an advertising/promotions executive in the future. Her talent was contemporary dance, and her pageant platform involves educating others on the importance of donating blood — an issue that became important to her when her grandfather became dependent on blood donations after being diagnosed with cancer of the blood.
And this year’s Miss District of Columbia (Washington DC) is Bindhu Pamarthi, a young woman born to Indian immigrants who has been competing in pageants since she was 12. Now 23, Pamarthi is passionate about ending animal testing in the cosmetic industry and more. A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Pamarthi aspires to go to law school.