How far the Miss America beauty pageant has come. Though still a relic from another time (where, in popularity, is the Mr. America pageant?), the institution now reflects greater diversity than the days when one of the original requirements for contestants was that they “must be of good health and of the white race.”
Some Americans are holding on to that old idea. Within minutes of Miss New York, Nina Davuluri, being crowned the new Miss America, racist tweets were fired off. “Do you not have to be American to win MISS AMERICA anymore?!” read one of the few we can print here (sufficient to say that racial slurs were used freely).
To their credit, a greater number of Tweeters rushed to Davuluri’s defense. “I don’t know if you’ve read the Constitution,” wrote one, “but anyone born in America is American.” Tweeters also brought attention to the most offensive missives, resulting in quick deletion.
So, you’ve made it to the biggest pageant in the land, you’ve done a stunning Bollywood-inspired dance routine, you win the crown – and people accuse you of being a member of Al Queda. Is there a better time to give the shopworn beauty contestant soundbyte of wishing for world peace? Davuluri did better. After thanking the organization for embracing ethnic diversity, the new Miss America addressed anti-American sentiment by simply saying, “I have to rise above that. I always viewed myself as first and foremost American.”
THE PR VERDICT: “B” (Good Show) for Nina Davuluri, the new Miss America.
THE PR TAKEAWAY: When attacked, don’t mount a defense. In this case of an unprovoked assault, it was best for Divuluri to say little. She lived up to the stately image of Miss America with a brief, on-brand quote, knowing that to directly address such groundless attacks would have left her too far across enemy lines. The best defense isn’t a good offense; it’s a cool head, perhaps under a sparkling crown.