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The NEW Miss America

Unless you count Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo, I don’t remember the last time I watched a pageant show. I was completely put off the pageant world after the Caitlin Upton fiasco in 2007 in which  the then Miss (Teen) South Carolina was asked to give answer as to why a fifth of Americans couldn’t locate the US on the world map. She went on to deliver a stumbling, bumbling speech so heinous in its contents that educators across the country buried their heads in a collective, thunderous face palm. What in the name of Zeus have we done to education, surely they must’ve asked. I’ve put the video right here for you to watch. Six years later, and it’s still just as cringe worthy as they night Ms. Upton half grimaced, half grinned her way through her idiotic reply.

Nina Davuluri, and her crop of co-contestants for the title of Miss America 2014, has made the pageant world relevant yet again.


The real story was about the contestants, who this year, as far as my limited knowledge about the pageant world can tell, truly reflect the America we live in. The internet was abuzz over Theresa Vail, the tattoo sporting, gun toting blonde representing Kansas. She was the first contestant in the pageant’s history to openly display tattoos. Standford graduate and runner up Miss California, Crystal Lee is of Asian descent. And of course there was Nina Davuluri, who went from being Miss New York to Miss America with one proclamation. The nation was stunned, as was she. She went on to thank the organization for embracing diversity. And we must admit, those of us who are well into our 30’s and older can attest to a time when Miss America would most likely be blonde (maybe even brunette if the salon’s had run out of peroxide that year) and from Any City, USA. It didn’t matter where she was from… it only mattered that she looked like a “real American” – preferably of pure Irish or Scottish descent.

And that’s when the racists came flooding out of the woodwork, like termites after a torrential rain. A quick search on Google will inform you of the kinds of vile things they had to say. It’s no wonder 20% of Americans can’t find their own bloody country on the map. Many of the idiots (who, by courtesy of the innernets were able to display their idiocy for the whole WORLD to see) wrongly attributed Ms. Davuluri’s race and ethnicity to the dreaded Al-Qaeda and the equally dreaded, ubiquitous term ‘Muslim’. Just so ‘real Americans’ know, ‘Muslim’ is a religion, not a race.

I digress.

The 2014 Miss America Competition - ShowI was really pleased when I perused the pictures from the pageant. They represented the America that most of us live in. I get my nails done by a group of congenial Vietnamese women. A Hispanic woman serves me lunch at the Italian restaurant I often dine at. I myself serve women from all walks of life at my store: Gambian house maids and German CFOs. The American Dream has eluded many who have come here in pursuit of it, but this weekend, it came true for Nina Davuluri, and that’s what I’d like to focus on.

Ms. Davuluri’s parents are from Andhra Pradesh, which is situated on India’s southeastern coast. I have never studied Indian history outside of Ghandi, a couple of Bollywood films, and the very westernized movies Karma Sutra and Mississippi Masala.I have a couple of (casual) Indian friends and I love dhosa, nan and curry. I’m no authority on India or its culture and I will never claim to be. The only thing I know for certain is that the further north you go in India, the lighter the skin and the further south, the darker. I know for sure that Indians are just as racist as their former European colonizers and just as color struck as we Africans who were also subjected to colonization. I just didn’t have any idea to what degree Indian self-hatred and racism ran.

Have a look at this ad selling Ponds skin lightening cream:

When I first saw it, my mouth was a fly trap: wide open with shock. I’m sure yours is too. Unlike advertising in West Africa – or Ghana at least, where advertising for skin lightening is a little a lot more subtle – this series of ads blatantly proclaims that the path to success, the path to perfect beauty, the ONLY way to capture the heart of your true love is by whitening your skin. Not lightening; whitening.

I suppose that this is because unlike Indians, Polynesians, and people of Asian descent, Black people can never have “white” skin. The best we can hope for is “lighter” skin. And even though we all have accepted that lighter skin gives you easier access to favoritism and therefore fortune, no one has ever dared suggest we completely shed off our black skin and opt for all out whiteness. That would be absurd.

Not so in India, apparently.

Models, actors and actresses, public figures, etc. are all under pressure to whiten their skin. The caste system in India is thousands of years old, and the idea that lighter (or whiter) people are superior is a hard one to break. Which is why I can only surmise that Indians both on the continent and in the diaspora were so dumbfounded by Nina Davuluri’s big win.

“In my country, she would have been a servant girl.”

“Or a whore.”

“She would never be acceptable in management, and even if she were, she would not be respected.”

Confounding, isn’t it? That one can think with their brain and not their skin? Here’s a newsflash: Nina Davuluri is taking her $50,000 all the way to the bank and using it to fund her medical degree, color struck haters be damned!

This… THIS is the America that I love.  Every once in a great while, we get to see The Dream come true. That a little girl with dark skin and bright eyes, who would be deemed nothing just by virtue of hue and gender in another country, has gone on to apply herself and don the pageant crown of the world’s last Superpower. (It’s supercilious talk, I know. Just stick with me.) And what is America if not a veritable masala of all the world’s cultures that have made it what it is today? We have a mixed race president and an Indian Miss America… let’s bloody celebrate!

Nina DavuluriHer parents worked hard, her aunts and uncles who came here before worked hard, and she is continuing a legacy of excellence and hard work herself. Nina Davuluri’s skin didn’t do that for her: Nina Davuluri did. And as much as people want to spit, and hate and angrily tear at their flesh in racist and racist self-hatred, the crown isn’t coming off her head. This is the NEW Miss America.


This article has 7 comments

  1. Arhyel

    She ridiculed herself, lol, my colleagues wont stop laughing at her idiodtic answer, we are not racists though so no offence to Miss South Carolina

    • Malaka

      Didn’t her answer make your flesh crawl? It was a total mockery of intelligence! It’s like words were coming to her head and she was just saying them. And what’s worse, she kept talking AFTER the chime went off.

      You and your colleagues aren’t laughing because you’re racists. You’re laughing because this is the idiot racist Americans would rather have representing their country over someone perusing a medical degree!

  2. George Machogu

    What’s Next?”

    Both of my brothers recently had kids that more than likely complete their families. They’re both older than me, so it makes sense they’re at a different stage. They met and married their wives, they bought dogs and they had kids, all in a nice little sequence. I love watching them build their lives together. It’s a really good thing. When my last brother got married, I was in my early twenties. No one uttered anything about me getting married then.

    But now? I’m 26 years old, unmarried, and childless. The comments are starting.

    “What’s next?”

    “When are you getting married?”

    “Babies look good on you!”

    “Better get started!”

    I shouldn’t be overly concerned with what they’re saying. They’re only teasing or encouraging me with the next step in my life. It’s harmless! No one means anything by it, it’s just time for me to be heading in the same direction as my peers. It makes sense. I get it.

    But it doesn’t feel very nice.

    Believe me, I am fully aware that I am unmarried and childless. Heck, I don’t even have a real job at this point in time. I’m aware that I’m getting older. I’m aware that I’m not following the same patterns as my parents or my brothers or many of my peers. I’m aware that my biological clock is ticking. OH MY GOSH I AM SO AWARE.

    So when you — friends, family, acquaintances, Twitter followers and blog readers — remind me that I’m far behind where one would expect to be at my age, it makes me feel broken. I feel like I’ve done something wrong. I feel like I’m letting you down or making some horrible mistake.

    I am 26 years old. I don’t have a husband. I don’t have children. I don’t have a career.

    Instead of relishing in the freedom, blessings and limitless possibilities that this stage of life offers me, I am left frozen, feeling like I’m not enough. Like what I’ve done doesn’t really matter or that I’ve accomplished nothing. I’m an outcast. I’m defective. I’m panicked. When you comment on my life stage as if there was something I could do to change it, it makes me feel inadequate. Most days I truly do love where I’m at right now, but when people question my marital status, I think I’m messing up my chances to do anything worthwhile with my life.

    What if my ultimate goal has nothing to do with marriage or kids or a career? What if my aim was to love people well, and to fully embrace the gifts I’ve been given? Would that be enough? What if my life goal was to simply run the race, to be called a good and faithful servant at the end of it all? Maybe that would mean marriage and children and a thriving career, but maybe it wouldn’t. Is it ok if it doesn’t?

    When you ask when I’m getting married, I don’t have an answer for you. When you hint at me having kids, it makes me jealous of new parents. When you prod about my lack of a stable career, I get frustrated. When you ask these questions, it doesn’t help me grow. It doesn’t help me feel content with where I am. It does more damage than you realize. Maybe you’re just trying to make conversation or small talk, or maybe you’re genuinely interested in my life. For that, I’m very appreciative.

    I would like to suggest one thing, though: instead of asking me what’s next, ask me what’s now. Ask me what God is teaching me, ask me what I’m struggling with, or what brings me joy. I am learning, I am growing, and I am happy. I would love to tell you all about it.

    I am 26 years old. I don’t have a husband. I don’t have children. I don’t have a career. I don’t have what people expect I should have, but I am abundantly blessed with absurd, exhilarating, and fantastic things I would have never dreamed up on my own.

    So please, my dear friends, don’t ask me what’s next. Ask me what’s now.

    • Malaka

      At 26 you should be seeing the world and having the time of your life! Trust me, kids and a husband aren’t going to help you do any of that. Delay marriage as long as you can, unless you have a burning, sincere desire to do so. Outside of that, falling into the marriage/kids bucket is just a waste of your time a d resources. I mean that.

  3. Arhyel

    marry me! ill take care of you…

  4. MarsKan

    Did you see the HuffPo article by Mallika Rao about Nina? Start grinding your teeth if you haven’t…Here’s the link: http://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/3935348?utm_hp_ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false

    • Malaka

      I hadn’t read that particular HuffPo article. Someone sent me this one, however: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/asha-rangappa/miss-america-and-the-indian-beauty-myth_b_3941524.html
      It makes the same point. Deep, deep sigh!

      I imagine Indians would be ashamed to admit that this is their reality, but chances are they are not. Adding color struck Indians to my growing basket of contempt. Africans are no better. We (and by “we”, I mean the idiotic “thery” would never pay someone like Alek Wek the millions of dollars she earns to grace our runways. A dark girl like that? She should be selling gari on the roadside, not wearing designer clothes!

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