Beauty queen Nina Davuluri is refusing to pay attention to racist comments about her Indian heritage after she was crowned the new Miss America.
The Miss New York beauty, who was born and raised in Syracuse, was named the winner of the coveted 2014 title at the finale in Atlantic City, New Jersey on Sunday (local time), becoming the first Indian-American to claim the honour.
But her victory prompted a flurry of rude comments by Twitter users.
One critic wrote, "Miss Arab wins Miss America...? What is life?"
Another added, "9/11 (anniversary) was 4 days ago and she gets miss America?"
However, Davuluri, 24, has brushed off the offensive comments.
"I have to rise above that (the negativity). I always viewed myself as first and foremost American...
"I'm so happy this organisation has embraced diversity. I'm thankful there are children watching at home who can finally relate to a new Miss America.''
Davuluri was cheered by family members halfway around the world. Her grandmother said she cried when she saw the news on television.
"I am very, very, happy for the girl. It was her dream and it was fulfilled," 89-year-old Vege Koteshwaramma said by phone from her home in the city of Vijaywada, in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.
The 24-year-old Davuluri will begin the first day of her reign today the same way most of her predecessors did with a frolic in the Atlantic City surf. She will also speak at a news conference about her win.
Davuluri wants to be a doctor and is applying to medical school, with the help of a $50,000 scholarship she won as part of the pageant title.
Koteshwaramma said there are numerous doctors in the family, both in the U.S. and India, and that if her granddaughter wants to become one, "I am sure she will do it."
Asked about her granddaughter appearing in a bikini, given the conservative attitudes about such things in India, Koteshwaramma said: "I haven't seen any such thing. This must be all part of the competition."
Moments after winning, Davuluri described how delighted she is that the nearly century-old pageant sees beauty and talent of all kinds.
"I'm so happy this organisation has embraced diversity," she said in her first news conference after winning the crown.
"I'm thankful there are children watching at home who can finally relate to a new Miss America."
Davuluri's pageant platform was "celebrating diversity through cultural competency." Her talent routine was a Bollywood fusion dance.
- AP, WENN