The beauty queen who is mak­ing a real dif­fer­ence

A true global ci­ti­zen, Nina Davu­luri, the for­mer Miss Amer­ica and the first In­dian-amer­i­can to win the ti­tle, re­veals her plans to erad­i­cate pre-set no­tions of beauty and in­stead, make it more in­clu­sive

Masala! - - INSIDE... -

Su­per­woman Nina Davu­luri, is what you call a true global ci­ti­zen and beauty with brains! The 2014 Miss Amer­ica ti­tle holder is the first con­tes­tant of In­dian roots to win the es­teemed Miss Amer­ica pageant. While Nina is all guns blaz­ing when it comes to so­cial and po­lit­i­cal con­ver­sa­tions, she par­tic­u­larly ad­vo­cates child ed­u­ca­tion on a global level. Def­i­nitely not your av­er­age beauty pageant win­ner, Nina, who is orig­i­nally from Andhra Pradesh, had ini­tially opted for the medicine line. How­ever, the uni­verse had dif­fer­ent plans for her as win­ning the 2014 Miss Amer­ica ti­tle had in­stantly marked her place in the glam­orous world of me­dia and en­ter­tain­ment.

She could have per­haps fol­lowed the tried and tested path and be­come a model or ac­tress but Nina was dif­fer­ent. She truly wanted to make a dif­fer­ence and that’s what she did – try­ing to im­pact the lives of girls though launch­ing and ad­vo­cat­ing so­cial me­dia cam­paigns, pro­mot­ing equal­ity, hob­nob­bing with in­flu­encers like Michelle Obama and No­bel Peace Prize win­ner Kailash Sath­yarthi, host­ing events of po­lit­i­cal sig­nif­i­cance, lec­tur­ing at uni­ver­si­ties and ap­pear­ing on prom­i­nent me­dia to pro­mote her mes­sage.

Cur­rently, a bud­ding en­tre­pre­neur, Nina is out with her new skin­care line Aavrani. The line is en­tirely cul­ti­vated by her be­liefs on erad­i­cat­ing im­posed global beauty stan­dards and in­stead, us­ing prod­ucts to en­hance one’s own beauty and fea­tures. The fun­da­men­tal essence be­hind Nina’s au na­turel skin­care line is to em­power women, thus the name Aavrani – ‘Rani’ is Hindi for Queen.

On her re­cent visit to Dubai, Masala! met this re­mark­able woman who is chang­ing the def­i­ni­tion of beauty. This is her story…

MY IN­DIAN ROOTS…

I was raised es­sen­tially all over in the US but have spent a cou­ple of years in Vijayawada, so my first spo­ken lan­guage is Tel­ugu. I no­ticed this idea of as­sim­i­la­tion within my gen­er­a­tion, specif­i­cally grow­ing up as Asianamer­i­cans; we are con­stantly bal­anc­ing be­tween two cul­tures and try­ing to hold on to our roots and val­ues but also be­ing Amer­i­can at the same time. I guess you just have to try and blend the best of both worlds to­gether.

THE 2014 MISS AMER­ICA TI­TLE…

I recog­nised that I had a very unique op­por­tu­nity, out­side of any for­mer Miss Amer­i­cas since I was South Asian. Even while par­tic­i­pat­ing in it, I re­alised there was po­ten­tial for me to be the first In­dian-amer­i­can to hold the ti­tle and I hoped that would be a mile­stone in terms of rep­re­sen­ta­tion and di­ver­sity. To­day, we are see­ing a lot more South Asian Amer­i­cans who are en­ter­ing dif­fer­ent fields and are not just stereo­typed as the doc­tor next door or an­other In­dian en­gi­neer. We are now choos­ing dif­fer­ent paths about which we are truly pas­sion­ate. But yeah, I hope in a small way, that I con­tributed.

MY DEF­I­NI­TION OF BEAUTY…

Beauty has changed in many ways. Grow­ing up, we’ve all ex­pe­ri­enced com­ments like, ‘don’t go out in the sun, you’ll get tanned’, or ‘you could be so much pret­tier if you were just a few shades lighter’ etc. I think I was in the third grade when my mom took me to the der­ma­tol­o­gist for a prob­lem and I re­mem­ber ask­ing him ‘is there a cream that will make me lighter?’ These beauty stan­dards are deeply seated in our cul­ture; and this fol­lowed me for many years.

THE SUPERFICIALITY OF BEAUTY STAN­DARDS…

I think it’s so im­por­tant to start this con­ver­sa­tion be­cause even now when I travel to In­dia, you see peo­ple who may be poor but are spend­ing money on pack­ets of fair­ness creams think­ing it would trans­form them. And that’s frus­trat­ing! Un­re­al­is­tic beauty stan­dards re­ally do hold a lot of women back in a lot of ar­eas due to skin colour – that was some­thing I re­ally wanted to tackle. That’s why I launched Aavrani, which is more than just a beauty brand; it’s re­ally about clean non­toxic in­gre­di­ents or chem­i­cals. So with my brand I’m urg­ing women to em­brace their nat­u­ral beauty.

THE THREE BEAUTY ITEMS YOU NEVER LEAVE WITH­OUT…

My mois­turiser, es­pe­cially on flights. I put it on at least twice dur­ing flights, (laughs)! I love a good bold lip­stick. And then, my con­cealer. I am not much of a foun­da­tion per­son.

THE GRANDMA’S RECIPE I BE­LIEVE IN…

Raw co­conut oil! I re­mem­ber I stopped us­ing it be­cause peo­ple at school used to be grossed out since my hair was greasy but now it’s so cool! Turmeric is great too, even if it stains ev­ery­thing! At Aavrani, we have for­mu­lated our face­masks and prod­ucts where you get all the ben­e­fits of the turmeric with­out the yel­low stains so it’s skin­friendly and for all skin types.

AAVRANI PROD­UCT RANGE…

Right now we have four prod­ucts – a turmeric face mask, a tea tree oil serum, a co­conut oil mois­turiser and an al­mond oil un­der-eye cream. They’re all In­dian in­spired in­gre­di­ents which I grew up us­ing. And as you grow older, you recog­nise just how pow­er­ful these in­gre­di­ents ac­tu­ally are.

THE MOST IN­SPIR­ING PER­SON­AL­ITY I HAVE MET THIS YEAR...

Kailash Sat­yarthi. I was just with him at an event af­ter the re­lease of his doc­u­men­tary called the Price of Free’ and at the screen­ing, there was not a dry eye in that au­di­ence. It was just so in­cred­i­bly mov­ing!

THE EVENT THAT MOVED ME…

When I got a chance to em­cee at the meet by In­dian PM Naren­dra Modi at Madi­son Square. The en­ergy there was un­matched. I think it was a pretty big mo­ment for all In­dian Amer­i­cans.

THE KEY TO WIN­NING A BEAUTY PAGEANT

Be your­self. Beauty is sub­jec­tive and what ra­di­ates, is, if a woman is con­fi­dent about her­self, knows who she is and stands up for who she is.

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