Is Geek America Ignoring Miss America?

By Arturo R. García

Lost in the morass of morons who decided to pop up after Nina Davuluri was crowned Miss America on Sunday was … well, just about everything else about her.

But as Lakshmi Gandhi pointed out at The Aerogram, Davuluri is a nerd in both the academic and pop-cultural sense: she’s holds a degree in Brain Behavior and Cognitive Science and plans to apply to medical school. She is also a self-identified Star Wars and Star Trek fan.

The New York Times‘ Jeff Yang added to this on Sett, both citing Gandhi’s post and posting a shot of Davuluri in full cosplay:

New Miss America and “Star Wars” fan Nina Davuluri. Image via Jeff Yang.

Update: Many eagle-eyed readers tipped us off to this, and Geekquality confirmed that the photo is indeed photoshopped. But her statements about her fandom are still on the record.

Yang also notes that runner-up Crystal Lee’s platform was based around women in technology and was an intern at Dropbox as well as a Stanford graduate. She is also working with a start-up company developing a transportation method for vaccines that doesn’t require refrigeration. While the function and message sent by beauty pageants in and of themselves is worth discussion, it’s at least encouraging that this year’s top two finishers are not only women of color, but involved in STEM fields.

Which makes it especially egregious to find that the geek Internet at large seems to be ignoring Davuluri’s win. Searches under “Miss America geek” and “Nina Davuluri geek” come up scarce.

It’s only been a few days since Davuluri’s win, so we’ll be keeping an eye out to see if interest in her fandom picks up as the tempest regarding the racist attacks against her subsides. But let’s just say this silence is … curious, to say the least.

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  • rayhigh

    Because we ALWAYS ignore crap like Miss America.

  • http://www.thesuperfluity.blogspot.com/ Brady Darnell

    Mr. Garcia: Your article presumes that there is some obvious intersecting line between the Miss America Pageant and the world of geekdom – vast though it may be. We cannot ignore what we weren’t looking at in the first place. I think Nina Duvulari popped up on my radar the day after the pageant only because of the racist xenophobes who criticized her win. (Near as I can tell, the “morass of morons” is actually the target demographic of the pageant. Nobody I know was watching it, anyway.)
    She’s into Star Wars and Star Trek? Cool, I know many women who are into those as well – many of whom are no less enchanting than Ms. Duvulari (or any of the other contestants), but who – if offered the opportunity to earn a scholarship by walking around a stage in a bikini and high heels – would tell the pageant commission to go stick it in their orifice of choice (and then patiently wait while the judges looked up the word “orifice.”)
    And I’m not taking a dig at the contestants. The contest and its organizers are culturally ignorant, in my opinion, but I expect that the contestants are, for the most part, intelligent women who see the pageant as a way to break into the entertainment industry or as a way to defray some of the exorbitant expense of higher education, and they are using their genetic gifts to their advantage. I don’t begrudge them taking that opportunity. I just don’t see why I have to care. I especially don’t see why I am expected to be any more elated that Duvulari is into Star Wars than I would be that the pastor of the church down the street is into Star Wars. Both exist in worlds that I seldom encounter.
    If I ran into either of them cosplaying at a convention, I might strike up a conversation, but that would likely be the only way I would encounter them.

  • relotixke

    I didn’t even know about this until someone mentioned it somewhere. Seriously, there is no reason that anyone ever, anywhere, for any reason, needs to care about the Miss America pageant. I’m happy that she won and she sounds awesome, and I’ll look forward to reading about her professional accomplishments when she finishes medical school. But I really don’t care what the people who judge the Miss America pageant are thinking about or doing, or that they exist at all.

    So why is there silence from the geek community about this? The answer is simply that we have better things to do than watch beauty contests or pay attention to who wins them.

  • williamrdickson

    I was under the impression that the Miss America pageant had declined into almost total cultural irrelevancy over the past thirty years or so. I remember news stories in the early nineties talking about desperate attempts to increase interest and viewership as advertising revenue continued a long free fall. It seemed even then destined soon to be of interest only to those on the professional pageant circuit. It’s no surprise to me that “geek America” isn’t paying attention. What surprises me is that anyone still is.

  • scola251

    …and what exactly are the qualifications to be Miss America beyond being attractive? Seriously, you’re lecturing that geeks aren’t interested in some silly 1950s anachronism centered around how a woman looks in a gown or a bathing suit? Seriously?

    My take away is this women have achieved a lot on their merits but only came to the public eye because some people judged the attractiveness of their bodies. That’s not damning of geeks who ignore beauty pageants, that’s damning of everyone who doesn’t.

  • LauraAkers

    Au contraire. The fact that there’s been no buzz indicates how much interest geeks have in beauty contests: none.

    Most of what I have seen posted by geeks has been in defense of her in relation to the racism swirling about her win.

    Lesson: geeks care about racism and try not to buy into sexism. Are they the ones who really deserve lecturing?

    • nicthommi

      You are sadly mistaken if you think geeks don’t buy into racism and sexism. That is utterly ridiculous. Have you heard of Titstare for example? That is hardly an anomaly.

  • justlikeoldtimes

    Despite geeks’ fascination with things Japanese, Asians and Asian Americans have been suspiciously absent in American geek celebrity culture. And this is despite the good number of genuine Asian-American creators out there.

    Felicia Day may still be called a “fake geek girl” by the misogynistic nerd crowd, but she hasn’t been actively chased out of nerdom like Olivia Munn.

    I wouldn’t mind if Nina Davuluri uses her Miss America title to get her foot in the door of that nerd culture now that she’s on people’s radar.

    (Also, that picture was ‘shopped by Jeff Yang. Might not be right to call it cosplay.)

    • Miche

      If I may ask, what exactly did Olivia Munn do to be chased out of nerdom?

    • LauraAkers

      She’s still not on geek radars in a way that will make a difference to geeks. That’s kinda the point. I don’t know a single geek who watches pageants or cares who Miss America is. As a result, they are unaware that she’s a geek. And will continue to be so because it’s not just that they don’t pay attention. It’s because they specifically hold such things in contempt.

      If they knew she was a geek, they would embrace her (especially after looking at her academic cred). But to argue that they are rejecting her based on race when that’s the only thing most of them could tell you about her = logic fail.

    • Temperance

      Olivia Munn was never actually a nerd. She had a job on G4 and knew next-to-nothing about gaming, and IIRC, didn’t give a shit about science fiction or other nerdy pursuits. She was just an attractive woman who men liked to look at, unlike Morgan Webb or Felicia Day.

  • Rachel

    I don’t know if “curious” is the right word. “Predictable”, though? Definitely.

    In general, because the nerd/geek community is still overwhelmingly white and male, I always notice a deafening silence whenever issues of race are brought up (usually in attempts to diversify comic book universes, which gets fanboys screeching, and almost never when white cultural appropriation enters the picture).

    Has anyone else noticed that whenever “geek goddesses” are celebrated, they’re uniformly (East) Asian or White? That’s why Miss America isn’t being heralded as the new Nerd Queen. When you’re a POC entering nerdy domains, you’re either 1. Tresspassing, 2. Exoticized/Tokenized, or 3. Not worthy of discussion.

    • nicthommi

      I mean, it’s not an interest of mine but I think there have been a lot of articles here discussing the experience of non-whites who participate in white male geekdom, and it’s never pretty.
      I’d expect nothing other than perhaps comments about hotness if she was discussed. But I see a lot more worship of East Asian women in geek communities than South Asian ones, so that might be coming into play too.