ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — On Nina Davuluri's first day as the new Miss America, she dipped her toes into the Atlantic City surf.
But hours earlier, she had to dive headfirst into the complex challenges of becoming the first Miss America of Indian heritage.
Moments after winning, Davuluri had her first test as Miss America: The first question she was asked in a news conference was about social media users upset that someone of Indian heritage had won.
"I have to rise above that," Davuluri said. "I always viewed myself as first and foremost American."
She said she's delighted that the nearly century-old pageant sees beauty and talent of all kinds. "I'm so happy this organization has embraced diversity," she said. "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.
She is the second Asian-American winner, after Angela Perez-Baraquio, who's of Filipino descent and who won in 2001.
Davuluri, 24, a native of Syracuse, N.Y., 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.
She's the second consecutive Miss New York to win the Miss America crown, succeeding Mallory Hagan.
Monday morning, she took the traditional ocean frolic dip in the surf in front of Boardwalk Hall, where she had won the title hours earlier. The pageant, which originated in Atlantic City in 1921, spent the past six years in Las Vegas before returning to New Jersey.
"Welcome home, Miss America!" Davuluri said as she stood barefoot in the shallow surf.
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 Vijaywada, in the southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.
Asked about her granddaughter appearing in a bikini, given the conservative attitudes in India, Koteshwaramma said: "I haven't seen any such thing. This must be all part of the competition."