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Nina Davuluri Looks Back at Her Year as Miss America 2014

Image: Miss America 2014 Nina Davuluri waves as she is introduced ahead of the second preliminary night of the 2015 Miss America Competition in Atlantic City

Miss America 2014 Nina Davuluri waves as she is introduced ahead of the second preliminary night of the 2015 Miss America Competition in Atlantic City, N.J., on Sept. 10, 2014. ADREES LATIF / Reuters file

Nina Davuluri made history last year as the first Indian American to win the Miss America pageant. Born in Syracuse, New York, the daughter of Indian immigrants, Davuluri beat out 52 contestants for the 2014 title with a Bollywood-inspired dance performance and a platform of "Celebrating Diversity through Cultural Competency." Though her win was marred with an online barrage of racist tweets and social comments -- questioning Davuluri's American identity and incorrectly calling her Arab and Muslim -- the 24-year-old met her first challenge wearing the crown with grace and aplomb, rising above fray and focusing on her year ahead.

As she prepares to hand over that crown at the Miss America 2015 pageant this weekend, Davuluri looks back at what she was able to accomplish in the last year, and hints at what could be ahead. Below, five things to know about Nina Davuluri before she adds "former" to her title.

Miss America 2014: Embracing Identity is Beautiful 1:27

1. She doesn't actually remember the most memorable moment of her Miss America pageant.

Before she was even named the winner, Davuluri seemed to know the significance ahead as she stood with fellow contestant and finalist Miss California, Crystal Lee. At the time, she said "We're both so proud. We're making history right here, standing as Asian Americans." But as she thinks back to "The Moment" -- as her name was called, as a sea of faces celebrated her, as the crown was placed on her head? "I honestly don't remember the actual crowning moment," said Davuluri. "It was such a blur!"

Image: Miss America contestant, Miss New York Nina Davuluri reacts after being chosen winner of the 2014 Miss America Pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey
Miss America contestant, Miss New York Nina Davuluri reacts after being chosen winner of the 2014 Miss America Pageant as 2013 Miss America Mallory Hagan places a tiara on her head in Atlantic City, New Jersey, Sept. 15, 2013. Davuluri, 24, won the 2014 Miss America Pageant on Sunday, giving the prize to Miss New York for the second year in a row. LUCAS JACKSON / Reuters

2. Davuluri wasn't completely surprised by the torrent of negative tweets and nasty social media comments following her win.

"Unfortunately, I was prepared," said Davuluri. "However, I can honestly say that for every one negative tweet, comment, or post, there were hundreds if not thousands of people who had positive words of encouragement and support all across the country and world for that matter."

3. She won the title by celebrating, not playing down, her Indian heritage, with the hope of sending a message to other young, minority women.

"I came into this organization wanting to change the face of who Miss America was," said Davuluri. "It was so timely for this organization to finally reach out to a new demographic of young women that is representative of America today. I hope this encourages young women to embrace their ethnicities and cultural heritage."

Image:
Nina Davuluri talks to Kylene Parker, Miss America 1979, at a lunch gathering for Miss Americas in Atlantic City, NJ. John Brecher / NBC News

4. Born and raised in New York, Davuluri spent two early years of her life in India, and believes finding balance between both cultures is a lifelong process.

"I'm very blessed to have a family that was always supportive and encouraging of my dreams," said Davuluri. "The biggest thing I've learned through this experience is that assimilation has to happen from both sides. It has been a constantly evoloving journey in my household."

5. She once had designs on becoming a doctor, but now plans on pursuing her MBA. Her advice for the next woman to wear the crown?

"I will always say that becoming Miss America was something I have worked for my entire life," said Davuluri. "My biggest advice is to know who you are, love who you are, and stand up for who you are."